Deceptive advertisements aside, there's very little Christopher Walken in Poolhall Junkies, a dull and lifeless film about a down-and-out underdog overcoming adversity to triumph in the end. The legendary actor (who seems to dominate every frame of the film's television commercials) shows up for only two notable scenes - his introduction, and the film's climax - and, when he's on screen, this middling B-movie displays some sizzle and pizzazz that's otherwise all too conspicuously missing from its "kind-hearted hustler makes good" blather. Walken has made a career out of rejuvenating shoddy clunkers like this one and, despite his limited screen time, he devours his scenes with the kind of gleeful voraciousness that his co-stars would be wise to study.
Star/writer/director Gregory "Mars" Martin has certainly taken a few lessons from watching Walken. As pool prodigy Johnny Doyle, Martin sports bouffant Walken-esque hair and mimics the actor's famously off-kilter verbal cadence, but has no idea how to craft a performance aside from these affectations. As an orphaned kid, Doyle was taken under the wing of a mobster named Joe (Chazz Palminteri) who taught him to be a pool-playing con man. Years later, Doyle learns that Joe screwed him out of a chance to go professional, and he turns on his former benefactor - a decision that comes back to haunt him when Joe returns looking for revenge with a professional ringer (a surprisingly convincing Rick Schroder) in tow. Doyle is trying to keep his relationship with girlfriend Tara (Alison Eastwood) afloat despite her disapproval over his pool shark ways, and also attempting to steer his eager brother Danny (Michael Rosenbaum) and his gang of straight-out-of-central-casting wisecracking buddies away from a life of hustling.
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