From Joe's Shelf
This is one of those forgotten little gems from my DVD collection that I wish more people had seen when it was new back in 2002, and also that the critics had been a tad nicer to. Co-written, directed by, and starring, Mars Callahan (Kalifornia), Poolhall Junkies is about a guy with a god-given talent for playing pool. But because of his insecurities about success and his trust in a selfish, opportunistic, father figure, played by Chazz Palminteri (The Usual Suspects), Mars' character has been held back for most of his life.
The billiards shots throughout the film look professionally executed (Callahan is an accomplished player in real life). All the while, there's a cool soundtrack from the likes of James Brown, Bill Withers, Saliva, and more. The drama itself is a bit uneven at times, but I think that it's mostly because of the film's short ninety-nine minute run time. The film quality is also somewhat grainy, however I think that it adds to the charm.
And the charm is what this movie uses as its biggest asset. Callahan is a natural in front of the camera with his quick wit and charisma. In just three scenes, Christopher Walken (True Romance) ups the film's validity and style. Palminteri is pretty much the same hard ass that he plays in most of his roles, but it also works here.
The awards for overacting this time, go to Rod Steiger (The Specialist) and Allison Eastwood (Breakfast of Champions). In his final role, Steiger comes off as an intense pool hall owner who forgot to take his heart medication, while Eastwood goes over-dramatic in her attempts to emulate Sean Young (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective). Appearances from Glenn Plummer (Strange Days), Anson Mount (Hell on Wheels), Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville), and Rick Schroder (Silver Spoons), all have some moments where their characters improve on the film.
The Good- The Callahan and Plummer "nigga" discussion, every match has a different hustle, Rosenbaum performs "Redneck Gigolo", and the finale goes off on a good (although short) note.
The Bad- The weak love story, lack of character depth, and more talks into the world of pool hustling would have been nice.
The Ugly- Callahan's health issues have kept him from appearing in many things over the years. That's a damn shame.
Poolhall Junkies is far from perfect, but it makes up for it's shortcomings by being funny, cool, and overall fun. If you're a fan of Rounders starring Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting) and Edward Norton (The Score), then you will probably enjoy this as well.
Rating- 6.5 out of 10
Poolhall Junkies (2002)
R | 1h 39min | Drama, Thriller | 28 February 2003 (USA)
A talented pool hustler who has stayed out of the game for years, must go back to his old ways when his little brother gets involved with his enemy, the very man who held him back from greatness.
Director: Mars Callahan
Writers: Mars Callahan, Chris Corso
Stars: Mars Callahan, Chazz Palminteri, Michael Rosenbaum