Fast Eddie: You know, I got a hunch, fat man. I got a hunch it's me from here on in. One ball, corner pocket. I mean, that ever happen to you? You know, all of a sudden you feel like you can't miss? 'Cause I dreamed about this game, fat man. I dreamed about this game every night on the road. Five ball. You know, this is my table, man. I own it.
"They Called Him Fast Eddie"
Well this masterpiece is a new favorite of mine. The Hustler is one of the best character driven movies ever made. It's easy to see how Scorsese drew influence from this with Raging Bull. The film is perfect in every single aspect. I loved everything about it. From the first epic pool battle between Fast Eddie and Minnesota Fats to the depressing and heart wrenching conclusion; this is a film that is just amazing in everything it is doing. Pool is used a backdrop for a character study on Eddie Felson, and the way everything is pulled together is just fantastic.
Eddie Felson, played by Paul Newman, is a pool shark, a hustler. He has been moving around the country with his partner hustling bars and pool halls for cash. He's cocky and he's good, so he thinks there isn't anyone out there that can beat him. So he goes looking for the guy everyone claims is the best pool player in the country; a man who hasn't lost in 15 years, Minnesota Fats. Eddie doesn't just want Fats' money; he wants to destroy him. The first pool scene with Eddie and Fats' sets up the rest of the film perfectly. We know Eddie's personality and the conflicts he is going to face throughout the film. He doesn't know when to quit, be it if he is winning or losing. We wait a long time to see the reunion between Eddie and Fats and when it comes it isn't what you expect, because of the enormity of what just happened in the story. It just really doesn't matter anymore.
The acting in The Hustler is as good as you would expect. Paul Newman is at his best, with an Oscar Nominated performance. The supporting cast is phenomenal as well, especially Piper Laurie, who plays Sarah Packard; Eddie's love interest. Her character ends up complicating the film in ways I didn't see coming. George C. Hall and Jackie Gleason are also on top form, and all three were also nominated for Oscars. The cinematography won and Oscar and it is clear why, the film is beautifully shot in black and white. There's a lot of clever camera work and some amazing use of lighting and scenery.
This is a classic that is highly praised, but deserves even more praise than it has gotten. It's a masterpiece. I could watch this movie countless times and I would always be intrigued by it. The setup is amazing and when everything that happens, happens, it is devastating, but so well done that it feels almost natural; like that is what needed to happen. As of today, I have yet to see Scorsese's sequel The Color of Money(I'll be watching it real soon), but I am very interested to see how the aftermath of Eddie's life would be handled by such a talented director like Scorsese. I don't expect it to be to the level of The Hustler because I just don't think that is possible, but it should at least be interesting.