ROBERT ROSSEN’S THE HUSTLER — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Robert Rossen’s silky-smooth 1961 drama The Hustler contains one of Paul Newman’s finest screen performances, and is easily one of the most subtly complex stories about gamesmanship and the art of winning, losing, and knowing when you’ve met your match. Based on Walter Tevis’ 1959 novel and adapted by Rossen and Sidney Carroll, the pool hustling narrative packs both a visceral and emotional punch, with a sterling supporting cast doing some extra-fine character work, including George C. Scott, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, Michael Constantine, and Murray Hamilton. Eugene Shuftan’s extremely stylish cinematography made excellent use of the monochromatic visual style, with perfectly chosen angles employed during the various pool matches, and knowing exactly when and where to opt for close-ups. The music by Kenyon Hopkins unobtrusively sets a great mood for the picture, matched by legendary editor Dede Allen’s smart and sharp cutting. The fact that Rossen and his collaborators never went over the top with the material, instead staying true to real life, has made this film the classic that it has become. Infamous boxer and nightclub owner Jake LaMotta appears briefly as a bartender. A huge success with critics and audiences, The Hustler would receive nine Oscar nominations (winning two), while Martin Scorsese would later helm the sequel The Color of Money, which brought back Newman as Eddie Felson and paired him with a young hot-shot played by Tom Cruise.

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