14 December 2003 | rbverhoef
Possible minor spoilers.
'The Hustler' is a great movie that involves the game of pool. Although this is important it is not really about the game. It is more about the life around it, Fast Eddie Felson's life in particular. Paul Newman plays this man in a terrific way. Eddie is a great pool player, he could be the best, if only he had more character. This is what Bert Gordon (George C. Scott) tells him. It is true. Eddie is a self-destructive man. He drinks too much and he does not know when to stop. At one point early in the movie he is playing the man who is considered the best of the country, Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason), and he has won 18.000 dollars but he gets too drunk and loses everything.
(Minor spoilers.) Then he meets a girl Sarah (Laurie Piper) who, like him, drinks too much. They start living together and it seems that Eddie is changing, but we suspects he is always thinking about playing Minnesota Fats again. Eddie gets in some trouble, his thumbs are broken, and after this he decides that he needs Bert Gordon to get back on track again. Gordon made him an offer before his thumbs were broken which seemed pretty unfair but now Eddie thinks he has no choice. He has the woman he loves on one side, who could get him out of trouble, and the game of pool and his desire to be the best on the other. What will happen is for you to see.
The interesting story about this self-destructive man is also about the self-destructive woman and the events around her are almost inevitable. The hero is a hero in most ways, but it is a hero who must face his weaknesses instead of discovering his strong points. This kind of hero is rare these days. Paul Newman shows us why he became such a great star with this memorable role.
Other things are very good too here. Although the game is never explained it is fun to watch every shot, some of them almost impossible. The black and white cinematography looks great. Fast Eddie Felson would return in Martin Scorsese's 'The Color of Money', a lesser film in some points but very good as well.