WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Johnny Doyle (Callahan) is a pool hall hustler whose dreams of turning pro have been crushed by his sleazy backer Joe (Palminteri). After Joe comes back to torment him with his slick new protégé (Rick Schroeder), Johnny has to play his best game yet to save himself from Joe, to get his brother out of jail and to give us a chance to, once more, enjoy Chris Walken at his best.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Although the plot itself smacks of retread ideas in which a hustler wants to go straight, be it at pool, cards, shuffleboard or anything else, the film was played out well enough to provide some dandy entertainment. Once again though, the big save was made by Christopher Walken who has to be the single funniest person in Hollywood. Co-written and directed by Gregory ‘Mars’ Martin (a.k.a. Mars Callahan) and based upon his own experiences as a pool hall hustler, POOLHALL JUNKIES is a fairly standard story about a hustler who wishes he had gone straight. The only problem is that they make hustling look so cool that it’s difficult to understand why someone wouldn’t want to do that. Hell, the thought “I wish I was a pool hall hustler” must have ran through my head about a hundred times while I was watching this flick. With the guy’s motivation discredited, it was hard to take the serious part of the movie...well...seriously. What we were left with were cool pool hall shots, a main character with kick-ass hair and big wads of money exchanging hands.
The highlights of the film though were the two brief, yet hilarious, appearances by Christopher Walken as Johnny’s girlfriend's Uncle Mike who eventually becomes his backer. It's a character not much different from the zany, offbeat characters that he’s played over and over again and yet he manages to give him a barely perceptible new twist and to spout out his lines in the most amusing manner. His back and forth with Palminteri and his motivational speech to Callahan are just two of the good little snippets he provides. Overall, POOLHALL JUNKIES is not a memorable movie but it does come through while it’s being watched and if you look longingly at a pool table the next time you walk by one, then you’ve probably been hustled into watching a film connected to it.
An audio commentary with Mars Callahan and co-writer Chris Corso is on the special features menu. It's rather slow-paced and a bit tame, but there is enough in there to entertain those who will go crazy for this film. Although far from perfect, it's the kind of movie that will likely drive some to obsess over it for a few weeks before they finally come down to Earth. Aside from that, there are short cast bios and the theatrical trailer.
POOLHALL JUNKIES is a fun little romp through the pool hall and could easily become one of those films you keep in your collection and rip out 12 times a year when the guys come over for beers. It's pretty repetitive in its subject matter, but the fun you have and the laughs that Walken provides, are enough to make you forget about all that. A nice little rental that may end up turning into a purchase.