Poolhall Junkies

on February 28, 2003 by Jon Alon Walz
As yet another lesson in Filmmaking 101 for future directors out there, Mars Callahan's "Poolhall Junkies" motors down a familiar path that has been worn down to a groove: Write a script with a lot of bad-ass dialogue and insert one partially-baked female character to trip up your 30-something lead male. Cast your older male leads from the pool of available name actors who are dying for work, raise money off the names you've cast and then shoot.

In the case of "Poolhall Junkies," the first yes from Christopher Walken provided that spark that got the likes of Rod Steiger, Chazz Palminteri, Rick Schroeder and Alison Eastwood involved in this low-budget movie that is very high on attitude and confidence but light on story and substance.

As a patchwork of some very fine scenes with some terrific acting by some of Hollywood's talented veterans, the movie succeeds; as a story about a gifted but erratic and self-destructive pool hustler, the film proceeds rashly into territories we've seen too many times.

Mars Callahan plays Johnny Doyle, the pool hustler, who has been estranged from his mentor Joe (Chazz Palminteri) for 15 years after being cheated out of a deal. Out of nowhere, Joe returns, and they must settle their score with one final poolhall showdown, pitting Johnny against Joe's newest pool-shooting ace Brad (Rick Schroeder). Side-plots about a girlfriend and her rich boss (Walken), who decides to finance Johnny's hustling--along with "Swingers"-esque scenes with Johnny and his crew hanging in diners--are thrown in to give the notable cast ample time to chew the scenery. But it all amounts to little more than padding the theatrical running time.

Quite a lot of work was put into the pool shooting sequences, wherein the actors actually make their own complicated shots while acting--quite a feat, and one that even Scorsese had trouble with in "Color of Money." But in his desperate attempt to make a super-cool movie with great actors, Callahan has only managed to assemble a super-cool group of actors with little to do. Starring Mars Callahan, Chazz Palminteri, Christopher Walken, Rick Schroeder and Rod Steiger. Directed and written by Mars Callahan. Produced by Karen Beninati, Tucker Tooley and Vincent Newman. An IDP release. Drama. Rated R for language and some sexual content. Running time: 94 min

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