Hollywood has a tradition to pump out sports-related feature films quite often, reaching out to the fans of a particular sport and making use of their enthusiasm for football, basketball, even ice hockey to convey a message of sportsmanship, vocation, and hard work that inevitably leads to success. But when it comes to cue sports in general – and pool in special – the movies hardly ever focus on the sport itself but on the life of the pool player – often a pool shark making a living by making use of a steady hand and visual acuity. This doesn’t make these movies any less entertaining, though, so get into your man cave with a cold one at your side and enjoy these flicks for what they are – sports entertainment.
The Hustler (1961)
Robert Rossen’s “The Hustler” is the closest thing a pool-themed movie comes to an actual Hollywood sports movie. It tells the story of “Fast” Eddie Felson (Paul Newman), a low-life, small-time pool hustler with a self-destructive attitude and a lot of talent challenging “Minnesota Fats”, a legendary player, to a high-stakes match. After a long game, he loses – but not only the game but his self-confidence, too. He is ultimately taken up by Bert Gordon, a manager promising to take him to the top – but at the end of the road, Eddie realizes that he could lose more than just his girlfriend – he might also lose his soul.
The movie was nominated for nine Oscars – it won two in 1962 – four Golden Globes, and won the BAFTA Awards for being the “Best Film from any Source” and Paul Newman for being the “Best Foreign Actor”.
Poolhall Junkies (2002)
Another pool movie involving a pool hustler. In “Poolhall Junkies” we meet Johnny (Mars Callahan), a talented pool player held back from achieving his dreams by his low-life trainer Joe (Chazz Palminteri). When he decides to break the bonds with Joe, his “manager” is not very happy about it, but he is “convinced” by a beating he gets from Johnny’s friends. Johnny leaves the life of pool-sharking behind and gets a “real” job. Things change, though, when Johnny, miserable in his new life, decides to play a high-stakes game against Joe’s new “trainee”, and loses, ending up with a huge debt owed to Joe and his brother in jail trying to steal the money he owes. His only way out of this downward spiral is a “race to nine” showdown with high stakes – including Johnny’s life.
Some of the trick shots played in the movie were performed by Robert “Cotton” Leblanc. World-renowned trick-shot performer Mike Massey also makes a cameo appearance in the film. The rest of the pool played in the game was done without special effects – Christopher Walken (Uncle Mike) has even performed a complicated trick shot on the first take, proving that his talent goes beyond playing on the screen.