Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I’ve played a lot pool in my day even though I suck at it.  I even have a pool table that I received for my 10th year anniversary at my job, though it’s still on the pallet it arrived in.  I mean they give you this catalog with all kinds of stuff like watches and earrings and exercise equipment and stuff, but then you see a full size regulation pool table.  What self-respecting man is going to pass that up?  Not this one.  Yes, it may be true that I have no place in my home to actually place a full size regulation pool table and I do have two perfectly bare wrists that could support a watch, but was there ever really a choice?  The wife may still be shaking her head at what she considers a foolish choice but my thinking is that it will inspire me to work harder to buy a bigger house that can support my brand new pool table.  I only mention this because apparently there’s a real vocal pool contingent out there who were displeased with the way Freddie Prinze Jr. looked while shooting pool, and since I don’t know nearly enough about the game I’ll have to take their words on it.  I’m assuming it’s similar to basketball in that you can tell by just watching somebody hold a basketball if they’ve ever really played the game before.  All that aside is the little Direct-to-Video pool hustler movie, ‘Shooting Gallery’ actually any good? 

Our film opens rather explosively as a police sting operation goes terribly wrong and is completely kiboshed when Cue Ball Carl (Ving Rhames) walks in the room and puts the final nail in the coffin of an already shot up undercover cop.  Fast forward a little bit to a young man named Jericho Hudson (Prinze Jr.) who is stepping off a train to New Orleans carrying a satchel full of loot.  That loot won’t come into play until much later in the movie.  Jericho is a pool hustler looking to latch on to a good crew and to that end he finds himself in Cue Ball Carl’s pool hall called The Shooting Gallery.  Jericho severely hustles one of Cue Ball’s top hustlers and subsequently has earned himself entry into Cue Ball’s tribe and earned that now ex-hustler a very unceremonious exit out of the tribe.

Now that he’s made his away into the mush mouth talking, chicken feet sucking, bowler cap wearing tribe of Cue Ball Carl’s family of hustler’s, he also gets to make the acquaintance of the rest of the crew which includes beautiful gambling addict Jezebel Black (Roselyn Sanchez), fellow pool hustler Paul the Pawn (Devon Sawa) and Cue Ball’s heavy Mad Boy (Jon Eyez). Getting a bit of rep as a hustling shark, Jericho also gets the attention of morally ambiguous police officer Mortensen (Callum Keith Reine) who wants to use Jericho to set up a game to hustle the ultimate hustler in Cue Ball himself. Mortensen claims that Cue Ball killed his partner back when the film started and Cue Ball also has a video tape of the deed and he needs Jericho to get that tape for him so he can put Cue Ball away. Of course we question why Cue Ball would keep a tape in existence that would give him a one way ticket to the gas chamber, but I’m sure all will be answered. Seems like everybody has something they aren’t telling us, but the truth will set everybody free in a ballistic hail of violent gunfire with only the innocent left standing.

There are a couple of things that are cool about this movie directed by one Keoni Waxman and that largely comes from the cool cast that he has cornered for his movie, not the least of whom is former NFL certified lunatic Bill Romanowski who I’m pretty sure will have quite a second career in the pictures if he learns to act just a little bit. Not that he was bad in this because the last person in world I’m trying to piss off is Romo, with the second to last person I’m trying to piss off being Ving Rhames who seems to have the lowest bullshit tolerance than any actor in the history of movies judging by his quick and curt responses on the DVD extras in this, and in most of the interviews I’ve seen him in. Toss in some Angus Macfadyen and solid character actor Callum Keith Reine and ‘Shooting Gallery’ has a pretty damn decent cast of actors. Too bad the movie doesn’t make a helluva lot sense to go along with these fine actors.

It didn’t help that there was an awful lot of pool lingo in this flick, and since I don’t speak poolese a lot of the dialog was somewhat lost on me. This is compounded when you have probably one of the clearest speaking actors on the planet in Ving Rhames, give him a heavy accent, put a chicken foot in his mouth for most of the movie on top of having him speak poolese then I’m totally lost. Even when you do understand the lingo the plot gets so bogged down and convoluted that it pretty much left me totally confused as to what exactly was going on. By the time the end of the film rolled around it would appear to me that the filmmakers were about as confused as I was and came to a Seagal-esque conclusion of lets just kill everybody and then hopefully the ending voice over will help it all make sense. It really didn’t. Plus allow me to give my man Jericho a little advice; though Jezebel sure is pretty, and I’m mean criminally beautiful, she’s a gambling addict and probably won’t make a great mate and probably should be kicked to nearest curb at the first opportunity.

‘Shooting Gallery’ was a slick looking movie with lots of fancy cuts and overlays and a cast of the coolest actors you’ll ever want to see, but the narrative was way too ambitious, overreaching, and ultimately way to confusing and convoluted. Trimming some of that and maybe lightening up on the pool lingo would have probably made for much better movie in my ever so humble opinion.

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