The Color of Money


Bottom Line: It ain’t silver, but it’s worth summa’ yer silver.

Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Fast Eddie: Paul Newman
Vincent Lauria: Tom Cruise
Carmen: Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

“I’ve got to admit it’s getting better,
A little better all the time.
I have to admit it’s getting better,
It’s getting better,
Since you’ve been mine,
Getting so much better all the time!”
–“Getting Better” by The Beatles

Had The Color of Money not been crafted in the hands of director Martin Scorsese, I may have easily given it a pass. This is (in technicality) the sequel to The Hustler, and there’s certainly a fear of a similarly slow work. But essentially, this isn’t a sequel. It has a different style, color cinematography, and it sets up two and a half decades after its predecessor. Sequels have certainly done this, but what we’re dealing with here feels like something more broad. If The Hustler is the appetizer, The Color of Money is the main course. Watching the two consecutively, the 1961 work feels as if it were produced for the sake of its own successor. The back story is a decent supplement (particularly during the opening twenty minutes), but it isn’t at all necessary to fully enjoy this later, slightly better work.

The Color of Money sets the stage two decades after its predecessor. “Fast Eddie” (Paul Newman) has retired from hustling the billiard tables, gone back to a regular lifestyle, a mundane job. Occasionally, he will hang around the bar and watch folks play pool. Upon doing this, he discovers a bright, swift young fellow named Vincent (Tom Cruise) and brings him up like a son in the world of hustling. He is taught how to use this as a skill to gamble, how not to get caught, how to compete, how to deceive. The story is thus similar to, yet all the more intriguing than The Hustler. And as Eddie is training the young chap, he realizes what he truly desires: to venture back into that alluring world he knew so well when he was young.

The Color of Money is a well-acted drama. Newman, of course, is perfect; at least twice as great as when he previously portrayed Eddie. It is indeed impressive how minimally flaws are left unfixed. Strangely enough, the two I can think of are too major to miss. One is the relationship between Vincent and his girlfriend Carmen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). I’ll be short with it: it’s cheesy, difficult to believe, and almost murders both characters. Then there’s the finale. Overly foreshadowed, to the point at which it’s entirely predictable nearly twenty minutes ahead of time. Paul Newman trains Tom Cruise, as he himself re-indulges in nine-ball pool. Should I say much more, the final half hour becomes a useless watch. That’s never a good thing when we’re dealing with a film.

But there’s too much else to not recognize the film for. The soundtrack is an outstanding compilation that represents 1980s. I often waited for a scene set against no music, but it never happened. Of course, Scorsese’s direction is impressive. This isn’t his usual film, but neither are Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore or The King of Comedy, both of which are fantastic. Unlike those two, however, you can identify this instantaneously as his work, simply because of its unique sense of style. What more is there to say? It’s no classic, but it’s worth your money, regardless of the color.