I’m not a pool shark. I’m not even a pool fan. But, I am a Newman fan, which makes this film good enough for me. Newman plays “Fast” Eddie Felson, a young, brash pool shark who needs a lot of sophistication and polishing if he is ever going to become the best. Enter Minnesota Fats (expertly played by Jackie Gleason) who is just the one to add some polish to the young hustler. A romantic relationship with Piper Laurie distracts Felson too much for my taste, but the George C. Scott character as Fats’ manager makes up for the diversion. Scott is brilliant here…cocky and tough — I think it is one of his best roles. And, it is one of Newman’s best roles as well…he is perfectly able to balance on that bridge between arrogant jerk and engaging sweetheart. Watch this one for his and Scott’s performances alone…and you also might want to pick up a pool cue!

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Paul Newman…Tom Cruise…Martin Scorsese. Heaven on film. A sequel 25 years after the fact, Scorsese takes over for The Hustler helmsman Robert Rossen (who died in 1966) and continues the story of “Fast” Eddie Felson…a hustling pool player who uses his exuberant charm and extreme good looks to his benefit at every pool table he plays. The tale Scorsese spins here is much different than Rossen’s tale of 1961. This film is more stylized and a little glitzier…at least as glitzy as pool halls can get. Here, Felson encounters a young man whom, seeing a lot of his young self in, he begins to groom into being a proper hustler. The protégée is crass and way to smart for his own good. Felson teaches him some of the lessons he learned over the years…though at times the protégée has trouble listening. The Hustler will always remain the quintessential Fast Eddie film. But, this one adds depth and experience to the aging hustler’s character.

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