If it was perceived by the critical fraternity that Paul Newman was more impressive in The Colour of Money, The Hustler's sequel, then a great travesty has been done. Coupled of course with the loss of this film, in the best picture stakes, to West-Side Story.
The Hustler was Robert Rossen's cinematic masterpiece, and for all the stylistics and photography employed, it is the contest of pool talent over self-assurance that makes the lasting impression. Newman sneers, barks and grins his way through a consistently impressive script with deadbeat conviction, all the while teetering on the brink of Rossen's stark landscapes, and infinitely cynical world.
Newman is at times breathtaking as 'Fast' Eddy Felson, a young and talented pool hustler in search of the holy-grail, the legendary Minnesota Fats. He plays a hustler with aplomb, he roars anger and he whimpers in defeat.
A strong supporting performance from Piper Laurie, adds a romantic interest, and ultimately highlights the importance of love over the all-mighty dollar. George C. Scott impresses as a sociopath gambling-addict, and yet somehow Newman is the only one you see. Piper Laurie's melodramatic character traits threaten to upstage, but it's Newman all the way.
Jammed full of quotable lines, this film sometimes risks losing itself in the moment, but it is the very excellent script, and Newman's performance as one of the greatest anti-heroes to date, that sets this aside as one of the greatest post-noir achievements of our times. Whatever you think of West-Side Story there is no denying the more enduring of the two, or indeed the more affecting. Whatever you think of West Side Story, this is glorious.