Posts Tagged ‘The Hustler’

The Cincinnati Kid”  —   movie review
Today’s movie review is for the 1930’s / Depression era, stud poker drama “The Cincinnati Kid” (1965) starring Steve McQueen as Eric “The Kid” Stoner, Edward G. Robinson as Lancey “The Man” Howard, Karl Malden as Shooter (the main card dealer), Ann-Margret as Melba (Shooter’s wife), Tuesday Weld as Christian Rudd (the “Kid’s” girlfriend), Joan Blondell as Lady Fingers (the secondary card dealer, and Rip Torn as Slade (a wealthy rich southerner).
Set in Depression era New Orleans, the movie revolves around “The Kid’s” attempt to become “The Man” (the champion) in stud poker.  This is the position / title currently held by Robinson’s character Howard.  Basically, Shooter deals a game between Howard and Slade where Slade looses badly.   (Famous quote:  “Son, all you paid was the looking price.  Lessons are extra.“)  While dealing the game, Shooter engages Howard to play the Kid.  Howard agrees.  Slade, who wants to get even with Howard, extorts Shooter to fix the game.  The game is played and Howard ultimately wins with a devastating hand (inside straight-flush) over a full house.  (Wikipedia says the odds of this happening are in the hundreds of billions to one.)
There are side story lines about the personal relationships between Shooter and his wife Melba, the Kid and his girlfriend, and the Kid and Melba.  Howard cautions the Kid during a break in the game to avoid relationships because they distract from this career they have chosen.  He recommends just having flings on the side / in-between games which will naturally peter out when the gambler moves on to the next venue.
This movie is widely considered as among the best of all the poker playing genre, but not necessarily the best of all the gambling genre.  It is widely compared (unfavorably) to “The Hustler” as a distant second / reminiscent / poor remake.  I have seen “The Hustler” (1961), but not in fifty odd years, so I can’t honestly say this is true, but I generally prefer Paul Newman to McQueen, so it probably is accurate.  They are both gambling movies with the young handsome up-and-comer trying to upset the old-lion, so I can see the comparison.
Is this any good?  Was it entertaining?  The answer to the first is that I found it more “interesting” than good.  Too much drama and not enough action for my tastes.  But, yes, it is an entertaining drama – in the classic old Hollywood sense (acting, character and plot development).
I enjoyed seeing the setting of New Orleans in the 1930’s.  I enjoyed the funeral band and the jazz club scene.  Right up until the very end, McQueen is consummate “cool”.  But throughout the movie – and particularly at the end – Eddie G. just smokes him in every scene!!  Robinson is the epitome of the alpha-male.  This movie is worth seeing just to gain an appreciation of him and his acting ability – without the hammy gangster-ism of some of his earlier / younger roles.
Final recommendation: strong to highly recommended.  I am not a poker player, so the game scenes did not have much appeal to me.  I have personally only played (for money) once in my entire life – although I have watched it on TV a few times.  I “really” didn’t find that interesting either.  Anyway, as an old-style drama with character acting / development and two stars bringing their “A”-game, this is a movie worth viewing.
Two other points worth mentioning…  The first point is there is a cock-fight scene in the movie which doesn’t show “much”, but would simply not be allowed in today’s cinema.  While not showing the death blows, it shows enough to make the movie problematic for young viewers.  The second point is the five main supporting characters (in no particular order).  I am not a fan of Karl Malden, but I must admit to being surprised by his acting in this role.  He is very good.  I am even less a fan of Rip Torn, but he made a surprisingly effective “bad southern guy”.  I was very disappointed by Ann-Margret in this role.  Considering she was not yet 25 years old during the filming, she looked too old to play the young tramp wife married to the older unsuccessful gambler (Malden).  Obviously, she’s attractive, but she just didn’t have “it” in this role (for me).  Weld made for an appealing (but extremely forgettable) ingénue in this movie.  Although a very familiar name who has appeared in a number of films and TV series, I struggle to remember her in any role (and most of the films / series).  And, finally, Joan Blondell!!  She hits it out of the park!  Considering she is in her mid-50’s during this film, she is FAR more sassy / attractive / interesting than Ann-Margret or Weld who are both 30 years her junior.  She steals EVERY scene she appears in – including when matched up head-to-head with Robinson.  She was nominated for a Golden Globe for this role and she is worth the price of admission herself.
On This Day In:
2019 Live It
2018 Mostly Unconsciously For Most People
Desperately Ginger Lass
2017 Explaining My Equally Meager Results
2016 Every Tool And Every Chance
2015 Something That You Love
2014 Not Really At All
2013 Listening And Deserving
2012 I’m Still Not Certain
2011 True, False And Useful

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