Sunday, 4 April 2010

'I'm the best you ever seen, Fats. I'm the best there is. And even if you beat me, I'm still the best. '

The Hustler
Dir. Robert Rossen
(Twentieth Century Fox Films, 1961)

Newman's acting carries a self-confidence and un-resounding faith in his ability that defines the protagonist, 'Fast Eddie'. In The Hustler Newman doesn't act because he doesn't need to. The actor was the character, and yet Newman isn't brash or cocky with 'Fast Eddie', he's an endearing, complex, even vulnerable man. The Hustler follows Eddie Felson wanting to be better than a small time pool player, wanting more than anything else to win, and having a conviction to do so, transcending the pool halls, bars and bus stations. Eddie's epic forty hour battle with Minnesota Fats, played nicely by Jackie Gleason, is a beautiful and exhausting game of pool. Unsurprisingly there are some great images of balls twisting and curling into pockets. Sarah Packard, Eddie's girl, never really entices, she is always on the periphery, and I guess that was the way it was, nothing got in the way of Eddie's hustle. Watch Newman work.

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