A small and obscure pool hustler drama with a cast featuring Christopher Walken, Chazz Palminteri, and the late Rod Steiger sounds like a hustle all its own, more obvious than the old four-balls-off-the-table routine. But here the hustle lies in the reservations of the skeptics--Poolhall Junkies is a brassy bit of entertainment that makes up in hard-boiled showmanship what it lacks in subtlety. It doesn’t take a mastermind to think up an enjoyable pool movie; all you need are a few tough-guy actors, dialogue you can smash concrete with, a dozen or so dazzling trick shots lined up, and it’s more or less in the pocket. Co-writer and director Mars Callahan recognizes his limitations and shoots accordingly; he’s the kind of hustler-filmmaker who’s confident because he knows he’s going to beat you by outthinking you. He recognizes that Poolhall Junkies isn’t The Hustler (much less Chalk, Rob Nilsson’s gritty, inventive indie drama from a couple years back), and he wears the contrivances of his plot on his sleeve, distracting you with zinging bushels of too-cool one-liners and inventive vulgarities until you can’t chew any more. That he’s cooked up such a macho, unabashed tribute to his elders easily carries the film across the finish line.
See slantmagazine.com for full review.