The Color of Money (1986)

Tom Cruise as Vincent Lauria in The Color of Money

Cruise & Newman Pool their Talents

Released in 1986 "The Color of Money" was the sequel to the impressive 1961 pool movie "The Hustler" which introduced us too hustler Eddie Felson played by Paul Newman. Where as "The Hustler" focused more on the character of Eddie Felson as he tried to find himself "The Color of Money" is a movie about Eddie passing on his talents to a young prodigy at the same time rediscovering his love for the game. Another big difference is that "The Color of Money" is for pool fans with vibrant action around the pool table and pool halls.

Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman - The Towering Inferno), once a formidable Pool hustler, is now much older and wiser. Having given up playing pool many years ago he now sells booze to clubs and bars. But on one of his sales trips, he encounters Vince (Tom Cruise - Top Gun), a young and very gifted Pool player with a 'sledge hammer break'. Seeing a lot of himself in Vince, he offers to take him and his girlfriend on the road, learning the trade of a Pool hustler in the Pool halls and bars, with a promise of making some serious money, ending up in a huge legitimate Pool competition.

Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson in The Color of Money

One thing which is very clear from the start and that is that "The Color of Money" is a different sort of movie to "The Hustler" which was mean, moody and focussed on a character, where as this movie is much more commercial and in your face wowing you with more pool action and larger than life characters. Whilst not in the same manner as the original, it is still very entertaining showing of the contrasting acting styles of Paul Newman and Tom Cruise but also the directional style of Martin Scorsese.

The storyline which again takes in the journey of its characters has a feeling of being more focussed on the pool action, offering many memorable scenes which take part around the tables. It's not a bad thing; it makes it not a shallow imitation of the original and has that greater commercial appeal for modern audiences who would be drawn to it for the pool action and vibrancy. But the storyline of Eddie passing on his knowledge to Vince makes for a pleasant story, especially as Newman manages to convey his love for the game as being back around the pool halls reignites his passion for the game.

A lot of the success of "The Color of Money" is down to Paul Newman returning to the role of Fast Eddie Felson and it's not a surprise that Newman won an Oscar for this performance as it is complete. You get a real sense that through Newman's acting that he sees much of himself in Vince and takes on a semi father like role throughout the movie. But it is when the passion for the sport returns is where for me Newman comes alive in the character and is a joy to watch as he enthuses about the sort of traditions of the sport and the various hustles.

Opposite Newman you have Tom Cruise playing the flamboyant Vince who prances round a Pool table like he's on a dance floor. The contrast between the two main characters is like chalk and cheese, the only thing they have in common is the love of Pool. This provides a good basis for the father and son relationship making it easy to empathise with the characters. But it is also Cruise's slightly over the top theatrics which helps make it such a memorable movie.

Alongside Paul Newman and Tom Cruise you have Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio who plays Vince's sexy girlfriend Carmen and also John Turturro who plays another pool hustler.

Directed by Martin Scorsese "The Color of Money" is in my opinion in a slightly different style to his norm, but that's not a bad thing. He really manages to capture the moody atmosphere of the pool halls but from each characters perspective. Some of Scorsese's use of camera angles is brilliant, with the camera following the balls down the table or a dialogue between Eddie and Vince is shot with the camera panning between them instead of chopping between angles, truly genius. Probably his greatest achievement in the movie is that he convinces you that both Cruise and Newman are expert Pool players.

What this all boils down to is that "The Color of Money" is a very entertaining movie, a more commercial looking journey into the work of the hustler, unlike the more character focussed "The Hustler". The combination of Paul Newman and Tom Cruise works perfectly providing a contrast in opinions thanks to the age difference but also a father and son like relationship.