Weekend Film Recommendation: The Hustler

The Hollywood staple in sports films is typically inextricable from some facile metaphor about the American Dream: pure determination predicts real success. Work hard, and you’ll make it on to the team. Believe in yourself, and you can overcome racism. Train hard enough, and you may even defeat communism. Yet for this week’s movie recommendation, in what is possibly the greatest sports film of the twentieth century, iron resolve and the American Way is nothing less than the source of the main character’s complete downfall. It’s Robert Rossen’s The Hustler (1961).

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A young Paul Newman plays the dashing ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson, a pool player who fails to understand that his impressive knack with a cue isn’t the same as being able to win. Felson is a small-time hustler with an eye toward playing in the big leagues. His ticket to get there is a victory against the top pool shark in the land, Minnesota Fats (played by Jackie Gleason). After Felson calamitously loses to Fats, he learns that you need a lot more than just an ability to ‘play a good stick’ when you’re the other side of a 25-hour marathon; you need endurance, ‘character,’ and the knowledge that…

This game isn’t like football. Nobody pays you for yardage. When you hustle, you keep score real simple. At the end of the game, you count up your money. That’s how you find out who’s best. It’s the only way. Continue reading “Weekend Film Recommendation: The Hustler”