The supporting cast is equally good, with George C. Scott (in only his third film role) occasionally even stealing the spotlight from Newman with his portrayal of a cold-hearted, ruthless manager. Next up is Jackie Gleason, who perfectly displays the grace and class that Eddie lacks.
There's also a love story with Piper Laurie (who rounds out the fantastic cast) that slows down the pace of the film, but plays a very necessary part in Eddie's character arc. All four talented actors received Oscar nominations for their work here, which is a pretty telling sign of how good they are.
But while the acting is certainly one of the film's central highlights, the performances would mean nothing without the writing and direction. The story itself would seem to be a pretty standard character study, but thanks to the smart, well-realized dialogue coupled with Newman's performance, as well as Rossen's precise direction, there's a complexity here not normally seen in film. To top it off, the cinematography is stunning, proving that you don't need color to have beautiful-looking visuals. This is one of those few productions where everything comes together flawlessly.
THE HUSTLER is a wonderful black-and-white classic that's sure to please anybody who likes... well, black-and-white classics. Sometimes it's true what they say; things really were better back in the old days.
*Audio Commentary (with Paul Newman, Carol Rossen, film editor Dede Allen, assistant director Ulu Grosbard, film critic Richard Schickel, writer/producer Jeff Young, and actor Siefan Gierasch): This isn't a standard track, as everybody's comment have been compiled separately. There's a commentary narrator that introduces people and asks them questions, followed by various individuals offering up their thoughts. With this in mind, it's still an interesting listen, and features plenty of worthwhile anecdotes about the film.
*Trick-Shot Analysis: You can play this during the film, or watch the five segments individually. With it, a small picture-in-picture video commentary appears during various pool scenes in the film. The speaker is pool great Mike Massey, who usually ends up just explaining what's happening on-screen.
*The Hustler: The Inside Story (24:29): This interview-filled featurette delivers a nice historical overview of what makes THE HUSTLER such a great piece of cinema, and also discusses the effect the film has had in pool halls across the U.S.
Life in the Fast Lane: Fast Eddie Felson and the Search for Greatness (11:49): This brief extra details the launch of Newman's career, with Newman himself offering up some insight about how luck played into him getting the part.
Milestones in Cinema History: The Hustler (28:00): An interesting featurette that chronicles various participants in the film, from how they became involved to their careers afterward.
Swimming with Sharks: The Art of the Hustle (9:39): Brief insight into how pool hustling works in the real world.
Paul Newman: Hollywood's Cool Hand (43:40): This extra, from the A&E's Biography series, tells all there is to know about one of Hollywood's greatest actors, Paul Newman.
*How to Make the Shot: Professional Mike Massey replicates five of the more impressive pool shots shown in the film.
Also included are a Still Gallery, the Theatrical Trailer, and several Previews.