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>
People misunderstood "The Color of Money," I think. There are a few things to keep in mind:
1) This was a Martin Scorsese film. Scorsese was fresh off "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull," and other such successes from less than a decade before. People were expecting a lot.
2) It starred Paul Newman, returning to his character from "The Hustler," in a sequel that was twenty-five years in the making. That's longer than the wait for the "Phantom Menace" prequel.
Perhaps for those two (very strong) reasons alone, when "The Color of Money" opened in 1986, the critics and audiences didn't think much of it. It garnered decent praise from both areas but most critics seemed to agree: it didn't hold a candle to "The Hustler," and anyone other than Scorsese could have easily made the same picture.
After 19 years, I disagree. I think "The Color of Money" is not only an intelligent and amusing character piece, but an excellent continuation of a character we haven't seen for 25 years.
First of all, Scorsese's direction isn't his best, but it's still very good. And he's definitely got the same elements going on as "After Hours" from a few years before -- his cinematography is identical and the dark colors and grainy '80s vibe are present in every frame. Likewise he's using the quick-cuts and zooms and iconic panning shots that he's known for. The thing is, Scorsese's styles just changed a bit during the 1980s (they even carried on into "GoodFellas" -- the night-time shots carry the same foreboding look as "After Hours" and "Color of Money"). I think now, looking back, since we've seen more of Scorsese's films, it's easier to notice that this is indeed a Martin Scorsese film. A man who is constantly changing his directorial approach. (Just look at "The Aviator" for goodness sake!) Newman deserved the Oscar more for "The Hustler," of course, but for what it's worth, Fast Eddie Felson's evolution is handled with care in the script and it's very entertaining (for anyone who's seen the original) to note the change in his behavior. It's also interesting to see the new cocky pool hustler, Vince (Tom Cruise), filling in the shoes of Eddie from a few decades before.
If "The Hustler" was a great insight into the life of a troubled young man, then "The Color of Money" is a terrific insight into the evolution of this man, and the contrast between the young and the old. All adults tell us as children that they were just like us at one time, and we don't believe them. "The Color of Money" follows this principal -- in thirty years, we all know Vince will be just like Fast Eddie: wise and matured. And then he'll probably be coaching a young guy who thinks he's the king of the world. Will they make another sequel based on this continuation of the story? I doubt it. It's unnecessary, because as far as I'm concerned "The Color of Money" has already stressed the point. But you never know...
Overall this isn't a great movie and I won't pretend it is. But I do think it's one of the better films to come out of the 1980s and had a lot more going for it than some of the critics gave it credit for. Film buffs should see it, especially those who loved "The Hustler."
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