Sunday, March 01, 2009

2/20/09: The Hustler (1961)

The Hustler is one of those seminal films that somehow slipped past me. Well, given my allergy to heavy noir, which tends to bore me, it's no surprise that the sluggish first third of this 134-minute film was so hard to get through. It's the famous story of "Fast Eddie" Felson (Paul Newman), a pool hustler who goes up against the greatest shark of all time, Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). There's also kind of a love story involving Piper Laurie, although it's one of those alcoholic, lost-soul romances that always end badly. George C. Scott, Murray Hamilton and Vincent Gardenia are familiar faces that keep the story going. Normally, I'm very interested in stories about confidence games—of which hustling is a variation—I was enormously tempted to quit this one 45 minutes in. But I stuck with it, and I was glad I did. Eventually it becomes an involving tale with themes of shame and redemption. Gleason is magnificent, and by the end, I was eager to check out the movie's sequel, The Color of Money. Rating: 4/5.

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