The Hustler (1961, USA)

The Hustler (1961, USA)People wrongfully assume that The Hustler is all about pool. It’s only natural, since the movie’s title is named after the people who play the game, and many of the scenes take place inside billiard rooms. However, The Hustler is no more about pool than Brad Furman’s Runner Runner is about poker. Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) may be a talented pool player but change this isn’t the only focus with poker being of the main interest of Felson’s in the film. The Hustler simply uses pool to mirror the main character’s rough personality, as the movie is all about Eddie’s struggle to become a better man.

Eddie Felson is a small-time pool hustler who wants to challenge the crème de la crème of pool gaming: a man called “Minnesota Fats.” Eddie convinces his manager, Charlie, to set him up with a match at Ames, Fat’s home pool hall. Eddie is a cocky individual who is extremely confident with his skills so when he arrives at Fats’ place, he challenges the man to a $200 per game. At the start of the duel, Eddie falls behind but he manages to bounce back to being just $1,000 ahead of Fats. Riding the momentum, he tells Fats that he wants to raise the bet to $1,000 a game. It’s a crazy amount, considering that the movie is set in 1961. In fact, even in 2015, it’s still a reckless amount to bet. Even online portals and landbased casino impose maximum bets to ensure “Responsible Gaming”. Not even InterCasino – the world’s biggest provider of casino games – offers maximum bets that go as high as $1,000.

The Hustler (1961, USA)

What Eddie did was a huge gamble, one that didn’t pay off. Twenty-five straight hours and a bottle of strong liquor later, Eddie loses the match, collapsing drunk on the floor with nothing left but aside from a meager $200 in his wallet.

The film’s plot clearly isn’t built on the rivalry of Eddie and Fats but more on Eddie’s mission to find the meaning of the word “character.” After his disappointing game with Fats, a man tells Eddie that the reason he lost was because he lacks character. Eddie may have the sharpness of a pool shark but he lacks what Fats has that makes him a legendary figure in the underworld. After being advised by said man, Eddie tried to better himself during the entire course of the film, often through brashness and guts instead of skill and wit.

The Hustler was a stepping-stone for Paul Newman as he went on to become one of the best actors of his generation. He perfectly understood what his character was going through and it clearly shows in every scene of the film. His character was of a broken man who could only rely on himself, and his skills, to find the answers he was looking for. Eddie’s character is very interesting to watch, and the final scene of the movie will keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

The Hustler (1961), directed by Robert Rossen.
Written by Robert Rossen and Sidney Carroll.
Based on the 1959 book The Hustler by Walter Tevis.
Starring Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason and Piper Laurie.

The Hustler is available to buy from Amazon in both the UK and the USA; plus if you decide to make a purchase after following any of the links provided you will have supported Attack From Planet B, so thank you.

Ken Wynne

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