Pool hustler Fast Eddie Felson finds the young, promising pool player Vincent in a local bar and he sees in him a younger version of himself. To try and make it as in the old days, Eddie offers to teach Vincent how to be a hustler. After some hesitations Vincent accepts and Eddie takes him and Vincent's girlfriend Carmen on a tour through the country to work the pool halls. However, Vincent's tendency to show off his talent and by doing so warning off the players and losing money, soon leads to a confrontation with Eddie. Written by
Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>
Unnecessary? Sure. But very well filmed and acted.
The Color of Money is a slick sequel to The Hustler where Paul Newman as a much younger man paid the price for hustling pool. Now, twenty some years later, his Fast Eddie Felson is driving around in a big fancy Cadillac selling liquor and stake-horsing younger pool players. One day, while romancing his bartender girlfriend, his young protégé (John Tuturro) gets whipped by this cocky kid named Vincent. Eddie Felson is immediately drawn to the flaky, loud-mouthed kid with the name "Vince" stenciled on his tee shirt. After some arm twisting and manipulating, Eddie, Vincent, and Vincent's streetwise girlfriend Carmen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) are making their way to Atlantic City where a 9 Ball pool tournament awaits. Along they way Eddie tries to teach them how to hustle pool. This will be a problem because of course the cocky youngster won't do as he's told. He has a gift and knows it. It is simply impossible for him to hold back and let someone beat him. Even when it could lead to a bigger payoff down the road. His girlfriend Carmen also seems to see both Vincent and Eddie as a way to make money for herself. She is clearly a woman with motives all her own. Of course this will all lead up to a climatic match in Atlantic City between the old master and the young protégé, won't it? Well, it appears to for a moment, until we learn that what we saw wasn't really what it appeared to be.
And that's the part of the film that seemed to really irk Roger Ebert in his review. He was expecting a masterpiece of a film for no other reason than Martin Scorcese is the director. But the film isn't a masterpiece. Its simply a very good film with some great performances, great music, and some gritty and authentic-looking locations. Who is the better pool player is the last thing this film is about. This is a film about people using other people. Be it for money, inspiration, comfort, you name it. Newman plays Felson here as a gruff, seasoned man who thinks he knows everything about the game, and those who play it. He finds out as the film moves along that is not always the case. Sometimes these younger players have new tricks up their sleeves, and if you let your guard down, they will hustle even the smartest old timer. There is a classic scene where Eddie, after a few too many drinks, allows a chubby and apparently dim-witted Forest Whitaker to take him for hundreds of dollars. The film is full of scenes that end in ways you don't quite expect.
This is one of those movies where above all else, the casting was almost perfect. Newman is as watchable as ever. Mastrantonio steals a few scenes. Cruise is annoying of course, but he was supposed to be. Still, he looks kind of weak compared to the other actors. Great support from Helen Shaver and Bill Cobbs, too. Watch closely for an appearance from music icon Iggy Pop. During a montage, Cruise hustles him and then steals a shot of booze right out of his hand! The cinematography from Michael Ballhaus is great as always. In fact its too good! Some of the camera shots just look too stylish for such a film. Maybe that was Scorcese's way of trying to liven up a picture with so little violence! Overall, The Color of Money is worth your time. 8 of 10 stars.
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