The Hustler – Review and Trailer


Pool hustler films are similar to gangster films. We imagine dark pool alleys with shady people illegally gambling. This world is entertaining because it is dangerous and different. We can easily imagine these worlds, and we can also imagine the plot lines that typically govern them. Hot shots with lots of skill who try to make it big by rising through the ranks but lose. This results in a crisis of confidence where they must re-examine their lives and rise above their problems to succeed. This type of story is not novel to cinema, but is the basis of many films (most Tom Cruise films). “The Hustler” by Robert Rossen is a film that is the centerpiece of this genre but also the antithesis of it.

The film starts with the story of “Fast Eddie” (Paul Newman) who is looking to be king of the pool world, but predictably fails. The film takes a to turn to the interesting with the introduction of Sarah(Piper Laurie). Sarah is a strong intelligent character, albeit with major character flaws. Eddie and Sarah share an extreme loneliness and kind of disdain for the world; however, while he looks at it as an easy tool to conquer, she looks at it as a joke. Through their dysfunctional relationship they develop something greater than themselves: compassion and love.

What makes the film truly great is that it is a tragedy. Rather than getting the girl in the end, giving the audience a wink, and leaving “the life”, Laurie kills herself because she perceived that her love was unrequited. The easy punches are not taken. This allows the film to question something bigger than hustling – to question what love is and the price of success. These questions speak to more than just the pool hustler, but the wall street banker, the business tycoon, and the person seeking to climb the ladder. What good is being on top if it alienates you from others and kills your compassion, and thus your ability to share life with others?

Laurie‘s character possibly even eclipses Newman‘s. While she is “Eddie’s girl”, which could possibly relegate her to a position of subservience, her tragic character is stronger than this. She is in command of her life, and her relationship with Newman is one that greater than them both. She is his humanizer, but he also does the same to her. Her character is strong enough to move beyond a mere love interest side character whose purpose is to make the lead male understand himself, but to one where she is an equal. The film itself believes this by focusing on their story more than on pool. The role is given all the more weight by the beautiful Laurie’s brilliant performance.

Graphically the film is stunning. The film is shot in rich black and white, and is composed in such a way so that it doesn’t become the centerpiece of the story itself, but a beautiful background that adds to it. The environment of the pool hall is captured well and feels grimy and dirty or luxurious and larger than life when it needs to be. The film is also probably set in New York, but it is never actually said in the film. Overall this film stands the test of time like few other can, and shows that a good movie can be of any type.


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Categories: Reviews

Author:Max Mollring

I am a film student at SF state, a bartender, and am not really into either of those things. I like hearing dark and demented stories and saving them in my personal vault. I like walking places and soaking up their sounds. I drink large amounts of coffee and I have been trying to stop smoking for four years.

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