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L.S. Dennis
03-01-2003, 10:20 AM
A friend of mine who lives in the Los Angeles area went and saw Pool Hall Junkies last night. Here was his review of it!

I just saw Pool Hall Junkies. You can safely read this without anything being spoiled for you.

Rating on a scale of 1 to 10: 5.5 to 6
Acting: 7.0
Direction: 6.0
Script: 4.5

The guy who wrote, directed and starred in PHJ is going to be a star as an actor. He's real, real good at that. Too bad he didn't let someone else work on the script a little more, because while this is a pretty enjoyable movie and a must-see for pool players, it has some glaring weaknesses as a pool story. Example: anything having to do with the subplot involving the main character's younger brother or his friends. Here's a group of kids playing $200 a game who haven't heard certain pool terms, fall for an obvious hustle and make the biggest bets when they don't have the money to pay. How'd they get so good and work up to $200/game without learning anything? Not believeable. Then one of them loses, gets in debt and to pay off the game does something that we have no clue his character would ever do. Also, sometimes we have people putting money on the light before a game and other times trusting the very same opponent to have the cash in his pocket. Things like that. The script needed work.

But there's plenty on the plus side. Christopher Walken is awesome, and so is Mars Callahan, the hero. Chaz Palminteri has the biggest role of the name actors and it's overwritten. He's very adequate, though. Rod Steiger is great in the Jimmy Wise role, and there's a nice unbilled appearance by Tony Curtis as an RV salesman. Rick Schroder is very believable as the badass pool opponent. The big acting surprise is Mike Massey. I have not seen him in a while and wasn't sure it was him at first, because he was indistinguishable from the professional actors. In fact, Massey was better than several of the real actors in the movie and he could easily have handled a larger role.

Bucktooth is mentioned in the first 15 seconds of the movie. Actors play Jersey Red and another old timer whom I've already forgotten.

Unfortunately, except for some black drug dealers, most of the good pool players in the story look like white, upper middle class preppies when only one of them is supposed to be that.

The pool scenes are very enjoyable, but the director uses a technique whereby the stroke is at normal speed but the film is then speeded up so that the balls travel at warp speed. Which is disconcerting if one sees shots that should clearly be hit softly being hit hard for visual excitement. The movie does not delve into the mechanics of the game or even the rules of nine ball or eight ball -- one doesn't get a sense as to why the game is so interesting to some people, i.e., why players become pool hall junkies. A na´ve viewer is left to conclude that pool is only about action as too many of the subtleties are missing in this movie. That could be said of "The Hustler," too, but The Hustler created a tension that kept you hooked on the game and made you follow it closely to see who won. PHJ doesn't do that nearly as well. Nevertheless, it's always a good move for a film to stress character over pool, which this does.

Another quibble about the pool scenes: there's one shot that we see repeated in two different matches, which I think is unforgiveable in a major film. Watch for it. It's a two ball off the short rail that kisses two balls on its way into the pocket.

Despite all this, I enjoyed it and I predict you will, too

John

L.S. Dennis
03-01-2003, 04:48 PM
Does anyone know when it will be showing in San Francisco?

Brent
03-02-2003, 11:09 AM
Hi. I got it on VHS and I have watched it a couple of times. And heres another stupid mistake they made shooting the movie. In the final battle and in 90% of the games they are using Brunswick Centennials but in the final showdown when the last 9 is left u can clearly see that one time the 9 in a Centennial and then its a Heritage I think: At least its not a Centennial cuz the centennials have the number 9 inside the cat-eye and is in bold but the other time it was just on the white with no ring around it like Heritage. Anyway maybe its not a big a deal but man it pissed me off.