The Hustler - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Hustler Reviews

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Super Reviewer
March 7, 2015
With an exceptional cast - most especially Paul Newman and Piper Laurie in outstanding performances -, this is a profoundly compelling and richly complex character study about an arrogant, self-destructive anti-hero in search of his own "character" and finding it in a most painful way.
Super Reviewer
½ March 24, 2013
A very well-done, old fashioned story concerning a drifter (Paul Newman) who hustles people at the game of pool, but potentially meets his match on the pool board in Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason), while struggling to keep his relationship with an equally troubled young woman (Piper Laurie) going. You can probably call a good chunk of what takes place, with a few surprises dished in, but ultimately this movie remains extremely entertaining thanks primarily due to the ensemble performances (Newman, Laurie, Gleason, and George C. Scott are all tremendous) that raises this somewhat familiar tale well above average territory. It has a lot to say about taking sports too seriously, especially when gambling is involved, and how one could sometimes put sport above relationships with people and the cost that comes with it. Not a flawless film, but darn close to one, and a movie that should be seen by anyone who loves sports (like me).
Super Reviewer
½ August 8, 2010
A character study of an awesome proportion, it's much more than the theatrical antics of a small time pool hustler. Paul Newman portrays "Fast" Eddie Felson, a hustler who tours the country with his partner conning the money out of men to pay for their next hotel room, booze, and many dames. Still, Eddie has higher aspirations than to be a con man to secure a sizable nest egg, and so he goes up against the biggest fish in the pond, Minnesota Fats, played by the always entertaining Jackie Gleason. Though Gleason isn't a large presence in the film, he is the main goal for Eddie, the motivation for most of the film. It's a complex issue that rears its head in many antihero works, when the main protagonist gives up happiness for something bigger than themselves, and here Eddie is stuck between a rock and a hard place. It's truly an actor's film, showcasing the talents of Paul Newman and the very enigmatic and rarely seen Piper Laurie. Both are thrown into many scenes together with very little story and are forced to show the craggy underbellies of each of their characters. Though it drags at times, it's very volatile to watch their relationship, and the sacrifices each puts forth in order to keep Eddie from becoming a washed up has been, yet find some form of happiness. At the very end, it's no longer about the ideal Eddie holds of himself, but escaping the clutches of a system that would keep him underfoot. Besides Newman and Laurie there are some great small parts for Gleason and George C. Scott. Both come off as austere and stoic in the face of the storm but in the end they show their true colors, their lack of strength when the hero shows himself above their antics and backroom dealings. Eddie really is the entire film, falling between a mess of a human being into the hero who you root for when he's down by a large sum of money, the crowd starting to disperse, and the sweat and tears mingling on his face. Heavily Oscar nominated, The Hustler remains a classic in every sense of the word, sparking a sequel in the eighties called The Color of Money, starring Paul Newman, again as Fast Eddie, and big star Tom Cruise. I can't wait to see it in order to compare and contrast, but truly it's this film, so classic, so fraught with tension and sexual ambiguity, that will probably stay with me.
Super Reviewer
September 27, 2007
Excellent performances from all four stars, still its a grim story.
Super Reviewer
May 21, 2012
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.
Super Reviewer
July 8, 2010
This is an absolutely brilliant character study. Much like Raging Bull, this is not really about the game or sport highlighted in the film. In this case, pool is merely the backdrop for a finely observed portrait of honor, humanity, greed, determination, loss, and consequences.

The black and white photography looks absolutely gorgeous, creating a captivating atmosphere. The editing is well executed also, featuring a mix of dissolves, wipes, hard cuts, and brilliant intercutting that really elevates the tension during the game scenes. The music is also quite wonderful- nice jazz music that really brings the themes, characters, and situations to life: really timeless stuff.

While all of the performances are absolutely perfect, this is truly Paul Newman's film. Gleason exudes a calm, yet menacing wisdom, Scott nails the greedy soulless vulture role (and keeps it from being cliched), Laurie gives a deep and heartbreaking performances as the moral center, and McCormick is also great as the old friend, mentor, and partner who really was a better fit than he got credit for. As I said though, this is Newman's film. This is one of those performances that will truly stick out in history, and that's saying a lot considering some of his other great roles. Newman is sharp, charming, and someone you care for, despite his flaws, no matter how big they are. His redemption is earned, although it comes at a terribly high price.

I can't recommend this enough. I'm sure it already gets studied enough in film classes across the country (and rightly so), but the attention paid to it wll never be undeserved. As a bit of closing trivia, besides the earlier reference to Raging Bull, here's some more. Now, everyone probably knows that both Raging Bull and The Color of Money (the sequel to The Hustler) were directed by Martin Scorsese, but how about this one: Jake LaMotta appears in a cameo in this film as one of the bartenders-that's great.
Super Reviewer
June 4, 2007
When a brash young pool shark is handed a lesson in humility by the accepted best in the business, he teams up with an amoral gambler to challenge for a rematch. The Hustler is to pool what Raging Bull was to boxing and it is clear that Scorsese was influenced by this film when he made it (Jake LaMotta, the subject of Raging Bull, even appears in a small role). It's a story of emptiness in victory, as Fast Eddie learns that pride and self respect are not the same thing. His clashes with his financial backer, brilliantly played by George C. Scott, are by far the best parts of the film as he realises that a relentless pursuit of the win removes all the joy from and appreciation for the game he loves. It's beautifully shot, perfectly played and intelligently written but I'd have to say the unremittingly dour and earnest approach makes it rather hard going to the point that by the end I wanted to open my veins myself. Technically flawless but about as much fun as sitting through a tax audit at your mother's funeral.
Super Reviewer
September 5, 2010
Sure, Newman is a pretty good actor, but the movie itself is too slow and boring for me, plus it's about pool, which isn't a very exciting sport anyway. If you like sports movies you'll have a higher opinion of this movie than me, I suppose. Overall, it's an okay movie, I just don't care for it.
Super Reviewer
January 6, 2010
A classic in every sense of the word and one of my favorite movies. Paul Newman was flawless and created such an iconic role, Fast Eddie Felson. The film-making is flawless and the script is air tight. What I also love about it is the ability it has to juggle comedy/romance/drama/tragedy all in one without catching you off guard.
Super Reviewer
February 19, 2007
Not quite the film, I had anticipated. I had to watch it in three stages through boredom. There were likable qualities and the actual storyline, I think works well, yet it failed to impress me.
Super Reviewer
March 22, 2009
Phenomenal film. My favorite Newman performance that I have seen. His speech with Laurie about being good at something is one of the best monologues delivered perfectly. I loved the entire film and everything about it. Piper Laurie is great and I loved their scenes together. (Her demise is devestating.) Jackie Gleason just oozes cool, but my favorite co-star is George C. Scott who is phenomenal. One of the best movies that I have ever seen.
Super Reviewer
June 13, 2007
The irrational stubbornness of Eddie Felson takes him to a downward spiral from where he will dream with a second chance to accomplish his only goal in life, but to do that he will shake hands with the devil in a -soul for glory- exchange.
Eventually, even greater odds will give Eddie irreparable blows, taking him to finally understand the character that takes to function, both in the pool table as in his broken-down life. At the end he gets what he desired the most, full field his dream on the pool table, but he paid the most terrible price for it.
Paul Newman gives an outstanding performance as the young, talented, arrogant and uncontrollable pool player 'Fast' Eddie Felson, a tragic figure who succumbs to the machinations of money and success and will find comfort in the company of Sarah, his lonely and handicapped girlfriend, also brilliantly played by Piper Laurie, the only person who truly loves Eddie and looks after him regardless of anything.
Robert Rossen's writing (with Sidney Carroll and adapting Walter Tevis novel) and direction, Eugen Schüfftan's cinematography and Dede Allen's montage are the pillars that achieve the film's austere atmosphere, a rare blend of extreme pessimism and lyrical quality; a risky vital quest, the frailness and futility of human existence and the brief sense of liberation given by alcohol; mixed up feelings intensified by the incredible performances of the two leads and a pair of equally great co-stars, Jackie Gleason and George C. Scott. A masterpiece of profound significance.
Super Reviewer
½ January 24, 2007
for some reason i found the first half of this film slow and i was ready to not like it. by the end i had absolutely fallen in love with it. first of all, the cinematography was astounding, some of the best i had ever seen. Almost every shot in the film could be taken as a still and hung on a wall as art. it was perfectly shot. newmans acting was amazing so its no wonder that this film is the one that took him from star to superstar in the movie world. and again, while the plot took time to pick up steam, by the end you can see how nearly perfect this story is. a truly great film and near masterpiece that deserved each of its 9 oscar nominations.
Super Reviewer
April 19, 2008
Paul Newman is so indescribably sexy. Movie is epitome of cool. A little slow through the middle and I thought, "Someone better die at the end." And someone did! Perverted TWISTED Crippled...
Super Reviewer
½ January 10, 2008
This film may well contain Paul Newman's best screen performance. As pool shark Eddie Felson, he's magnificent.
Super Reviewer
½ November 10, 2006
Overrated and depressing.
Super Reviewer
½ September 6, 2006
A masterpiece. Newman gives his best performance ever. A marvelous film.
Super Reviewer
March 5, 2007
Fast Eddie Felson keeps making "Contracts of Degradation." Fast Eddie is young, talented, cocky, has the mind of a hustler, but doesn't know when to stop, a taste for booze, and lacks Character because of all of this. Minnesota Fats is experienced, talented, graceful, clean and well dressed, has endurance, and has Character. Bert Gordon buys Fast Eddie's soul with the promise to give him Character and make him a winner. I noticed there are two characters who are literally crippled. One is the man who helps Fats keep clean and well dressed. The other is Sarah, Fast Eddie's new girl. As Sarah points out, it is allegorical that every other character wears a mask and underneath they are figuratively crippled, perverted, and twisted. Fast Eddie learns too late, but finally has gained Character so he is able to beat Fats. In the end there is the hint that Bert Gordon owns Fats in the same way he owned Eddie and it occurred to me like a lightbulb over my head that FATS and FAST are nearly the same now.
Super Reviewer
October 21, 2013
Before bringing down the character in the Color of Money, Newman creates a great pool shark in Fast Eddie Felson. The showdown with Minnesota Fats has a wonderful buildup and gives us good tension for the final battle.
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