The Hustler (1961)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama, Sports Drama  |   Release Date - Sep 25, 1961 (USA)  |   Run Time - 134 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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The Hustler combines elements of film noir, Westerns, sports films, and a heavy dose of existentialism. Some have suggested that the film has a Biblical aspect: the ever-darkened pool halls are each man's Hell, with the parasitic Bert Gordon (George C. Scott) as the Satanic figure who lures Eddie with his own brand of apple. Others point to the film as a parable for the conflict between art and commerce, utilitarianism and metaphysics. Regardless of interpretation, The Hustler is a crackling good morality tale, with a series of top-notch performances, appropriately moody black-and-white cinematography, and a master and prodigy conflict as old as the ages. Paul Newman's performance is a raw-nerved, twitchy wonder, while Jackie Gleason, Scott, and Piper Laurie provide supporting performances of rare depth. Director Robert Rossen allows the complex relationships of the film's key figures plenty of time to evolve, while his careful work establishes a tangibly musty and seedy sense of the film's pool hall setting. Fast Eddie's ultimate redemption, which comes at a terrible price, gives the film a melancholy and bittersweet conclusion that is wholly fitting.