Paul Newman portrays Hud who is basically the opposite of his father. Hud shows none of the work ethic, and decent honest that his father holds so dear. He as well lack the pride in the life of rancher as his father does. Hud lets this be known to his father at all times showing a constant distaste for his father and his morals.
This is a rather change from every other Paul Newman performance that I have reviewed so far. In all of his other performances Newman certianly portrayed some troubled men, but they clearly were not bad men either. Hud most certianly is a bad man, with his constant violence and lusting. Newman excels in the role though, as he portrays Hud not as a complete villain, but more naturally as jerk who clearly grew into the man he is over many years.
Newman most certainly in unlikeable here, as Hud really tries to turn his nephew down the wrong road as well as constantly mistreats and fails to understand his father. Newman though nonetheless gives a magnetic performance, in sort of the same vein as Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. Newman finds the right charisma for the part that show the virile appeal of Hud, and leaves no question why women and his nephew are drawn to him.
Interesting though is the fact that Hud is not a pure evil character who is constantly being brutal, by rather he is more realistically drawn as a man by Newman. I think this is particularly true in his relationship with Alma (Patricia Neal) their housekeeper. In these scenes both actors show the right mutual attraction with each other, and Newman is properly charismatic in a low key fashion to show Hud as not completely bad. Hud though is not patient, or able to control himself and attempts to rape Alma, which is important because Newman presents this as the nature of Hud, a man who just can never appreciate anyone or anything.
Also portrayed well is Hud's dynamic with his father and his nephew. Hud and Homer fight constantly which are portrayed by both actors brilliantly because it always suggests that this is their history history together. Newman though does insert carefully moments showing that perhaps he does not entirely hate his father, they a brief, subtle, and expertly handled by Newman.
The relationship with the nephew is most pivotal though perhaps to the film because Newman displays a wide range of emotion to the nephew. One of just sort of a pity, as well as somewhat a dislike, but as well one of possibly a Uncle's actual liking of his Nephew as well. Newman combines both these emotions impeccably well into his performance to make their scenes together quite memorable.
Newman performance as Hud is a strong achievement, because he never plays Hud as a one note jerk. He certainly portrays Hud as one quite well, but he adds more layers to his performance without ever overriding the rest of the characterization. This is a memorable performance that leaves a great impression because of Newman uncompromising manner, he never cheapens out to be likable, or entertaining instead creating a lasting portrait of a very particular man.