A Film Review By Jason L. King
|Rating:Rated R for language
Starring: Mars Callahan, Michael Rosenbaum, Christopher Walken,
Directed By:Gregory ‘Mars’ Martin (Mars Callahan)
When I was growing up, my grandparents had a pool table. I spent some dreary days at my grandparent’s house trapped in the basement with my cousins and a pool cue. Now you would think that my pool playing skills would have increased drastically due to the fact that I played pool enough, but I guess when the pool cue is still taller than you, you just can’ play pool quite so well. Since this was the case, I never became a pool shark at a young age, and now at my ripe old age of 21, I am sad to report I am still not a pool shark. In fact, I am probably so terrible at pool that I may get one ball in a pocket after about 50 tries. But on a slightly better note, I can actually hit the balls with the cue ball, but normally they end up flying across the room and hitting some large bald guy with tattoos on the head. And when the threat of him breaking a pool cue over your head literally looms over you, it’s easy to say, “I will never be a pool shark” and take off running as fast as your legs will carry you.
Luckily for the world of movies, there are people who are better at pool than me. These are the guys that you watch in amazement and wonder how in the world can they do that. They can bounce balls over top of each other, bank the cue ball off of all four sides before striking the ball and send it straight to the pocket. You’ve all seen those types of guys. Well Hollywood took the idea of a pool shark and wrote it into a screenplay. The end result was Poolhall Junkies.
Jimmy Doyle was a young amateur pool shark that loved to play for money. Earning his living off of hustling other pool hall junkies, he made a small name for himself with the help of a manager and one time friend named Joe. But when Joe only was in it for the money, Jimmy wanted more and split, in hopes to someday be the best. Fifteen years later, he is still in the same boat, still a small time hustler, hiding his winning bankrolls from his girlfriend. But when his younger brother, who idolizes his brother’s skills on the pool table, makes a bet that he can’t pay up, Jimmy has to risk it all and take on a another pool hall pro who is backed by Jimmy’s old manager Joe. With one more chance to prove himself to he people of his past, Jimmy racks up the balls, picks up a cue stick and heads to the tables.
Poolhall Junkies proved to be a true hidden gem. Not knowing anything about it going in, except that it had Christopher Walken in it, I was expecting a pretty mediocre film. By the time the credits were rolling I was thoroughly impressed. The story was one that kept you interested, and had a nice twist on an old perspective that we have seen played out in movies such as “Rounders” and “Gone in 60 Seconds.” The ideas of helping out a younger brother by returning to the “crime” you gave up years ago was a near carbon copy from the idea set in movies such as Gone in 60 Seconds, and the idea of an addict returning to the game he loves despite possible conflicts in his current love life nearly screamed “Rounders” all over again. All in all, Poolhall Junkies does for pool what Rounders does for the game of poker.
One of the more impressive things I found in the film was the acting. In a movie that I compared to Rounders fairly closely, small named actors like Mars Callahan and Michael Rosenbaum do a wonderful job when compared to similar roles played out by Hollywood heroes Edward Norton and Matt Damon in Rounders. Each character in Poolhall Junkies had some quirk about them that made you connect with them and enjoy the movie even a little bit more. Callahan has a bright future ahead of him if he can get recognized and get some more mainstream roles just so he can make a name for himself.
Now I know I am going to be criticized for giving this flick a good grade unless I explain myself a little further. Yes the film did have Christopher Walken in it, and yes as many of you know, it is no secret that both the Mike and I have an almost unhealthy obsession with The Great and Powerful Walken. But in all honesty, Walken was only a small part of the multitude of pleasures that this flick brought. Walken always brings something to the screen, and is a fun character to watch, especially when he plays a cocky millionaire like he does in this flick. But all in all, Walken was more of a sideshow in an overall fantastic flick.
In the end, Poolhall Junkies proved to be an excellent night out at the theater. Don’t let me discourage you by comparing it to Rounders; there are plenty of differences and a little more upbeat feel to the flick overall. Poolhall Junkies is a great flick that proved to be almost “too smart” for what it was. The one-line jokes, the great acting and the fun plot make this movie a hit that few people will ever know existed. Don’t be one of those people. And if you are like me and can’t play pool, then live out your pool hall fantasies on the big screen with Walken, Callahan and the gang. It’s just as entertaining and you don’t have to worry about that large tattooed bald man lingering over your head when you accidentally hit him with a flying eight ball.