Who ever thought a movie about a pool-playing hustler could be so fascinating? Well, when you cast Paul Newman in the title role of "The Hustler", you get a great film indeed. Like his other roles, Newman once again blends his movie star good looks with his immense charisma to create another captivating performance here. As his character unfolds, you are forced to hang on to every word, every expression, every gesture. His screen presence is really something to behold. Although the film gets a bit too mellow sometimes, you are so invested in his performance that you have no choice but to stick with it. I must admit, I groaned when they introduced the cliché love interest for Newman’s character. Shockingly, Sarah Packard (played by Piper Laurie) turned out to be one of the most interesting characters in the film. I expected her to submit herself to him and fulfill the vulnerable "damsel in distress" role, but she defied my expectations. Instead, this tough cookie is an unapologetic drunk who is fiercely self-assured. Her performance is deeply soulful, to the point that it almost overshadows Newman’s leading performance. Besides Laurie, the entire main cast performs well, earning well-earned Oscar nominations. They are the vessels that deliver this potent screenplay. While watching the film, the rich dialogue kept reminding me of Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay for "The Social Network". This script and the film itself is a true classic.
This film is part of my List of Shame.