Paul Newman won his Best Actor Oscar for its 1986 sequel, ”The Color of Money,” but he executed an equally award-worthy turn in Robert Rossen’s jazzy, boozy pool-hall morality play. As Fast Eddie Felson, a small shark who learns to swim with the big fish (namely, Jackie Gleason’s Minnesota Fats), Newman bravely reveals the demons lurking beneath his devil-may-care exterior. He inhabits the role so naturally that it’s surprising to learn from the accompanying doc that it was once earmarked for another blue-eyed performer, Frank Sinatra. For The Hustler: Special Edition, a nifty picture-in-picture feature allows real-life pool champion Mike Massey to explain how Newman (who had never picked up a cue before technical adviser Willie Mosconi trained him) pulled off the film’s many trick shots. Alas, his acting tricks can’t be so easily explained.
We gave it an A