"Fast" Eddie Felson is a super-confident gambler who challenges the big boys to a high-stakes match. Whe he loses he's forced to go on the road with dodgy and dangerous manager Gordon, though he soon realises he'll have to lose his morals to win at this game.
The Hustler is probably the coolest movie of all time, but to think of Robert Rossen's masterpiece in those terms is actually an underestimation. True, Paul Newman's Fast Eddie is an iconic creation, the dialogue is hard-boiled poetry and George C. Scott wears excellent sunglasses throughout. Not only that, the confrontations in smoky pool halls are staged and shot with as much drama as Martin Scorsese offered in the boxing ring or Ridley Scott managed in the gladiatorial arena.
But there is a huge amount of substance underpinning all this style. Rossen takes the seedy, small-time milieu and uses it to explore male machismo and existential philosophy, before introducing Piper Laurie as the 'lame' alcoholic girl who reveals the major shortcomings of both. Laurie and Newman's doomed romance gives the film a tender heart to counterbalance its cynical mind and smart mouth, and ultimately elevates it from the merely cool to the classic.
There's a huge amount of style in this picture, but also a huge amount of substance underpinning it.