There are certain movies that grace every “Best Of” list of top films. These are the ones that filmfags can’t help but jizz over at their mere mention. They get praised by critics, and labeled as “groundbreaking” and “influential.” Typically, they are also boring as shit and are a test of patience to even sit through them. These are the movies I want to discuss in “Classically Shitty.” The ones you are supposed to like because the filmfags said they were great, but when you watch them you can’t help but feel like you just wasted two hours of your life.
Although the first entry into this series was probably my completely fair and balanced review of 2001: A Space Odyssey, I will officially kick off this series with a review of one of the worst pieces of shit ever put to celluloid: The Hustler.
This is a 1961 film starring Paul Newman. The American Film Institute regards it as the 6th best sports movie ever made. Well, if you consider “sports” to be standing around, smoking, drinking, and acting like a jackass, then yeah, this is a sports movie. It’s about a guy named Fast Eddie
Feltcher Felson who likes to play pool, and wants to beat the reigning king of the game, a dude named Minnesota Fats. The apparent twist is that Fast Eddie is a lot better than he appears to be, and hopes to take out Minnesota Fats by surprise.
Looking at the definition for hustler, you’ll find it means: an expert gambler or game player who seeks out challengers, especially unsuspecting amateur ones, in order to win money from them; a swindler.
Keeping this in mind, you’d expect this movie to be about Fast Eddie playing some guys in pool, and hustling them out of their money as it turns out he’s a lot better than he lets on. Initially, the movie does take that route. In fact, the first scene is 100% awesome as he hustles some guys as he pretends to suck at pool, makes a wager, kicks their asses, and walks out of the pool hall with a fistful of their money. It rocked, and it was everything you’d want from a movie about hustling.
Unfortunately, that’s where the awesome train makes its last stop. From then on, the movie is filled with nothing but bullshit scene after bullshit scene. Fast Eddie spends the remainder of the running time trying to beat the greatest living player, Minnesota Fats, but by doing it legitimately, without hustling. Um, what? This movie is called The Hustler, right? Shouldn’t he beat Minnesota Fats by, you know, hustling him? Apparently not. The thing with him lying about his billiards skills to hustle people is forgotten.
That’s one of the frustrating parts of this movie. It’s called The Hustler, but doesn’t feature much hustling. It would be like making a movie called
The Deer Hunter and have it actually be about some fucked up Vietnam War shit The Bank Heist and have it actually be about a bank robber who applies for a student loan. Is it too much to ask for Hollywood to follow through with their titles? If the movie claims to be about a pool hustler, then it should follow his exploits hustling pool, not trying to win a straight-up match.
Stupid title aside, the movie also happens to be extremely dull. The movie could have been titled OPM&3IQE#V891F but if it was well written and well executed, I still would have enjoyed it. Unfortunately, the movie sucks all around. It trods along at a snail’s pace. After watching for what seemed to be three hours, I checked my watch to find that only 30 minutes had elapsed. Jesus tapdancing Christ. Over half the movie is spent watching Fast Eddie and Minnesota Fats battle it out in their match-up. The script is non-existent as the majority of the “action” is spent watching the two men trade shots in the smokey pool hall. The actors look just as lethargic as the lazy writing, as they sleepily spout their lines and look like they are about to fall out of their chairs from sheer boredom. Honestly, boring isn’t a word I should use to describe The Hustler. Boring doesn’t do it justice. There probably isn’t a word in the English language that really captures the true essence of extreme ennui that one feels while watching this bloated piece of shit. The movie meanders along aimlessly, as we watch game after game after game of pool with little else happening. Eventually it does end, but by this point, who cares? It would have been more fun to play a game of pool than to watch this piece of shit. Once the pool game concludes, Fast Eddie’s girlfriend inexplicably kills herself. Movie over.
You could watch the entirety of The Hustler on fast forward and not miss anything. You won’t miss the snappy dialogue because there isn’t any. You won’t miss the riveting drama because there isn’t any. You won’t miss the anxiety-laden pool match because it’s fucking boring. You won’t miss the great acting because the acting is wooden. You won’t miss the great directing because it’s typical camera-on-a-tripod fare. You won’t miss the complex characterizations because they’re all two-dimensional. The Hustler is worthless. It has nothing to offer other than as a possible substitute for Ambien.
As I mentioned before, this movie is heaped with praise from filmfags across the globe. Roger Ebert wrote, “only a handful of movie characters so real that the audience refers to them as touchstones.” What kind of touchstone is he referring to? The Dumbass Touchstone? Because that’s what Fast Eddie is: a dumbass. He actually had the upper hand, he kicked Minnesota Fats’ ass, had taken $11,000 from him, and in the end he wound up the loser because he didn’t know how to quit when he was ahead. Is that supposed to be some kind of moral? After slogging through such a boring movie, I could care less. Besides, the characters learned nothing, acted like stupid assholes, and were not even entertaining to watch on screen.
Since The Hustler was nominated for so many awards (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Screenplay), it only goes to prove that the Academy Awards are meaningless bullshit. The members of the Academy prefer to recognize their friends rather than movies that are good or deserving of awards. In fact, movie awards in general are completely unnecessary bullshit. These Hollywood actors and directors should feel rewarded enough by the fact that they only have to work three months of the year and get paid millions of dollars for it. Fuck them. Fuck Hollywood. Fuck The Hustler.