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'Poolhall Junkies'

Friday, May 02, 2003

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Film Critic

You or I could've made "Poolhall Junkies" just as badly as writer-director Mars Callahan, but we never could've gotten it released, because Mars has one mysterious skill that you and I lack: the ability to get Rod Steiger, Christopher Walken, Rick Schroder, Chazz Palminteri and Alison Eastwood to sign up for supporting roles.

'Poolhall Junkies'

RATING: R for language

STARRING: Mars Callahan, Chazz Palminteri, Rod Steiger

DIRECTOR: Mars Callahan

WEB SITE: www.poolhalljunkies


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How he managed this, we'll never know, but never mind. His fatal flaw was conceptualizing and casting himself in the lead.

Who, exactly, is Mars Callahan? Gold Circle Films' publicity department tells us he's a frequent guest on "ER." Yes, well ... In any case, Mars is way out of his orbit here as Johnny, a latter-day Paul Newman in this lame, latter-day "Hustler."

Johnny is the ace cuestick protege of sleazy Joe (Palminteri), who won't let him resign from the poolshark biz when Johnny decides to go straight. The kid has fallen in love with a law student named Tara, played by Alison Eastwood -- you guessed it, the daughter of Clint. Steiger plays Johnny's mentor, Walken his bankroller, Schroder his arch-rival.

Miss Eastwood does an excellent job of concealing any of the limited talent she may have inherited from her dad. Palminteri is an absurdly over-the-top villain. Walken is a self-caricature. Schroder is embarrassed. Rod Steiger -- at the end of a brilliant career -- is sadly pathetique.

The audience is sadly suckered in by their names.

The minimal pool-table action itself is sadly sabotaged by hideous 1970s music.

Mars is sadly uninhabited by anything resembling human talent.

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