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Poolhall Junkies (2003)
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Review Date: March 05, 2003
Director: Mars Callahan
Writer: Mars Callahan, Chris Corso
Producers: Tucker Tooley, Vincent Newman
Actors:
Mars Callahan as Johnny Doyle
Chazz Palminteri as Joe
Christopher Walken as Mike
Plot:
A down-and-out kid gets picked up by a gambling goombah and taught the ways of being a pool hustler. Fifteen years later, the kid is all growns up but doesn't like his station in life, so he bolts from the nest and tries to make it "legit" on his own. But the "real world" ain't an easy place and when you've got a rich girlfriend, a troubled brother and goofy buddies in tow, pool is pretty much the only solution to all of your problems. Lots of pool cues...ensue.
Critique:
I wouldn't go as far as to say that this was either a good or bad movie, but if you like pool, enjoy watching hustlers hustle and don't mind sitting through a hackneyed storyline that we've all pretty much seen in one form or another before, POOLHALL JUNKIES, along with a cool l'il performance by Christopher Walken (more like a cameo), might just do it for you. The film is basically the life-long ambition of writer/director/star Mars Callahan, who had enough faith and passion in his project to sustain it for a period of 10 years! Buuuuuuut, at the end of the day, the story is pretty much the same as a number of other flicks including ROUNDERS and THE COLOR OF MONEY, with sub-par acting to boot (it's an "indie" film, after all) and dialogue which despite trying really hard to sound like SWINGERS or Kevin Smith, falls flat on a number of occasions. And why not try to be a little more ambitious in plot? (Step one: drop the entire "black gang" subplot / Step two: drop the whole "rich girlfriend" thing). Having said that, the movie does feature enough amiable characters to keep you interested throughout and even more so if you're a fan of pool. Several games are also played throughout the film, many of which include some very cool shots. The soundtrack is also pretty decent at times and the directing, while obvious and mannered, does the job with a couple of nifty slo-mos, freeze-frames and the sort.

The lead character played by Callahan also had enough of a third dimension for me to care about him by the end, despite the obvious lack of overt charm a la Tom Cruise or Matt Damon (although he does look like an odd cross between Ben Affleck, Jason Lee and John Cusack) It also didn't hurt that the wonderful Christmas Walken showed up every now and again, dropped a few Walken-esque looks our way and upped the film's overall ante. One engrossing scene that you won't want to miss features the great man talking about lions on the Nature Channel...trust me, it's a doozy! As for the rest of the actors, most are not very good. This may have been Rod Steiger's last film role before he passed, but he's just too over-the-top here. Palminteri, on the other hand, is basically sleepwalking through a role that he's been sleepwalking through for years, while Alison Eastwood shouldn't quit her day job as "Clint Eastwood's daughter". The rest of the "friends" in the cast were okay, but some of their chatter also came off as a little too "written" (this ain't DINER or RESERVOIR DOGS, folks). Overall, the film comes across as pretty authentic with some entertaining pool games and a number of small time hustles, but with obvious rough edges most of which are inherent due to its independent nature.
(c) 2017 Berge Garabedian
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