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>
Although a lot of this plot is taken from the Richard Widmark rodeo film When the Legends Die, The Color of Money is still a worthy film and a good successor to the early Paul Newman classic, The Hustler.
I imagine that players like Paul Newman who create classic characters like Fast Eddie Felson must be bombarded with scripts or story ideas for sequels. Paul Newman is one of the most discriminating of players and up to this point he had only reprised his role in Harper with The Drowning Pool.
When he decided to do The Color of Money there was no need to age Newman twenty five years with makeup. Time had done a better job than any makeup man could have done. Time had also honed his acting abilities so that he could realistically recreate one of his classic characters in an older generation.
One thing about The Color of Money is that can and does stand independently of The Hustler. You do not have to have seen the earlier film to know what's happening here. Nevertheless in that earlier film, promising new pool player Eddie Felson does not take direction from mobsters who effectively end his career before he gets it firmly on track.
Fast forward from 1961 to 1986 and Paul Newman is now a liquor salesman who hangs around poolrooms in tank towns and dreams what might have been. A young kid with a 'sledgehammer break' gets Newman's attention and its Tom Cruise. He's got a girlfriend, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio with him and the three sort of adopt each other.
It's a complicated relationship between all three of them and all three of them manage to convey the many ups and downs of this triangle. Newman teaches Cruise the tricks of the trade including how to tank a game occasionally to bring up the betting odds. In many ways Cruise learns too well and Newman hanging around with him makes him realize just how much he's missed because of the gangland blackball.
Reportedly Newman and Cruise got along splendidly during the making of The Color of Money. Their joint interest in auto racing cemented a very good working relationship.
Paul Newman was also nominated during the eighties for Absence of Malice and The Verdict which are two of my favorites with him. Unfortunately in the first he was up against Henry Fonda who had been similarly snubbed for years by the Academy and was dying during the Oscar voting. The second time Ben Kingsley portrayal of the title role in the massive blockbuster Gandhi obscured what I think is Newman's finest performance in The Verdict.
Though the Oscar was an Oscar for lifetime of work, The Color of Money is a worthy sequel to The Hustler. Martin Scorsese got great performances out of the whole cast. And Paul Newman finally got a matching Oscar to go with the one Joanne Woodward won for The Three Faces of Eve for their mantelpiece.
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