• Just an abundance of talent at Norman Jewison’s disposal here (Peckinpah was working on this earlier in the decade) with Steve McQueen at the peak of his powers (sandwiched about half way between The Great Escape of 1963 and Bullett of 1968), Edward G. Robinson (in his last great role in a long and stories career spanning 3+ decades)—an all-star supporting cast (the always reliable Karl Malden, Rip Torn, Jack Weston and a “I dare you to take your eyes of me” Ann-Margret). Lalo Schifrindoes the score (Dirty Harry, Mission Impossible, Cool Hand Luke) and Ray Charles the song over the closing credits
an all-star supporting cast (the always reliable Karl Malden, Rip Torn, Jack Weston and Ann-Margret)
  • A pretty blatant updating of 1961’s The Hustler from Robert Rossen with McQueen in the Newman role and Edward G in the Gleason role (offered to Spencer Tracy at some point)—this film, though quite strong, isn’t on that level—it’s breezier, slighter. Stud poker the substitute for pool. McQueen is even offered to play pool once and he says “ain’t my game” which I think was a pretty clear tip of the cap and acknowledgement
  • Uses the New Orleans backdrop for a great opening funeral scene
  • McQueen’s deadpan understated minimal style is absolutely perfect for a great poker player with a poker face
McQueen’s deadpan understated minimal style is absolutely perfect for a great poker player with a poker face
  • A great edit match going from the steam from the train with McQueen to Edward G—two heavyweight actors – great presence
McQueen to Edward G—two heavyweight actors – great presence
  • Early on a great shot of Ann Margaret blocked by the curtains
  • At 80 minutes a medium long shot of the two actors set at the table with Malden as the dealer and the lighting fixture— it’s a painting- really great frame
  • A stunner of an overhead shot at 94 minutes of the poker table
I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it great form– but Jewison uses the overhead shot for at least three great occurrences- one here
  • McQueen would team again with Jewison in The Thomas Crown Affair in 1968
  • The poker scene heads up finale is great- Jewison is roaming around the table via montage editing giving us close-ups of the ensemble of actors and getting a bit of their inner monologue and he goes faster and faster
  • 100 minutes in—another strong frame- McQueen alone in the alley under a single light- an overhead shot—artfully rendered
  • Recommend