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USA 1965
Directed by
Norman Jewison
102 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

The Cincinnati Kid

Although not in the league of Robert Rossen's 1961 classic, The Hustler to which this will be immediately compared, with Steve McQueen playing the role of Fast Eddie to Edward G. Robinson's Minnesota Fats, this is still an exciting film that manages to do quite a lot with the hermetic world of professional high stakes poker. .

McQueen is in fine form exuding cool and with his famous blue eyes getting plenty of exposure in close-ups whilst Edward G. is absolutely spot-on as his older and more experienced opponent. Poker players will no doubt spot technical weaknesses but both actors as well as supports Karl Malden and Joan Blondell are very credible to the non-initiated. Bulking up proceedings Rip Torn plays a rich sleazebag who tries to fix the game and perennial cuckold Malden is having trouble with his tease of a wife, played by Ann-Margret. Rounding out the typology Tuesday Weld plays the sweet girl-next-door.

Well-written by Ring Lardner and Terry Southern and efficiently directed by Jewison the film is a stand-out on McQueen's C.V.  Editing by Hal Ashby and cinematography by Philip Lathrop should both get recognition in making the film as good as it is whilst it is tantalizing to imagine what the original director, Sam Peckinpah, would have made of it. The downside is that in a typically 1960s way although it's set in the 1930s/40s (?) there is little that convinces in this respect although there are a couple of nice nods to the setting of New Orleans with a brass band funeral in the opening scene and a blues number late in the film's latter stages.

As impressive as it, the film ends abruptly and too easily with too many questions left unanswered and expectations left unresolved.

FYI: Jewison and McQueen would again collaborate on The Thomas Crown Affair (1968).




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