“The Hustler” brought the game of pool and hustling into the mainstream, then in 1986, a movie that ties together the story of “Fast” Eddie Felson threw out another considerable piece of the puzzle, and created one hell of a follow up to a story that surely didn’t finish. This time around, we catch up with Paul Newman once again reprising his role as “Fast” Eddie Felson, and Tom Cruise as Vincent Lauria. If you’re not a fan of Cruise, you may want to see his stellar performance in this movie, because he throws down with Newman in many scenes, as the two actors really turn up the drama and make you believe in the story at many turns. “The Color of Money” was directed by Martin Scorcese and his attention to cinema, details, and photography frame this movie in incredible fashion.
You already have the basis of the original story when you watch this one, but let’s say you don’t. This is a completely new story that has some compelling points. Eddie Felson is retired from pool hustling, and is still backing players but not playing himself. He sees a new prospect and decides to teach him and his girlfriend how to hustle and go from minor leagues to the big time in the world of pool. As the story progresses we see a big disconnect between the old and the new, as Vincent (the young pool player), learns valuable lessons and kicks his heels at every turn. The story is a very interesting focus that you can pull from, including the idea of father figures, mentors, learning, cheating, and abuse.
The movie is a slow paced drama and we see that the younger hustler thinks he knows it all, he continues to fight against the learning process, alongside his girlfriend. Then things start to really change as Eddie gets a touch of the bug of playing pool even though he was retired. As he starts to win, he faces off against a much better player, and that leads him to question his whole existence. The existential crisis here is so telling and the performance factor is thrown into a new level with Cruise and Newman squaring off in a hallway of a pool hall. This scene alone makes for an incredible example of acting. Felson quits, he gives up his money, and walks away but Vincent won’t let him, and throws a fit. Carmen takes the money, and we are taken into a depressing slide.
Giving up is easy. Newman exemplifies the notion of former glory, and much like “Major League”, there is a plot twist that is quite simple, and yet completely changes the perception of what is needed. We will all get old, we will all end up wanting that one last shot at glory, and with “the Color of Money”, we get that example through narrative that focuses on youth rising, and aging with one last shot at the glory.
The opening sequence of this movie is epic. The explanation of the game of 9 ball is told, and a cigarette burns, with a voice over coming through, to explain the game. This touch of art is so specific, that it introduces you to the rest of the story’s twists and turns in an easy manner. This introduces you to a movie that is definitely an art form, not just another story of another hustler.
Extracting meaning from “The Color of Money” is not difficult. I found myself contemplating themes of love, loss, obsession and aging. Sometimes, I find myself thinking of glory days, like it matters. Eddie has to come to the realization that he’s growing old, that he has to deal with weaknesses, character, and strength. He also has to submit to the notion that he’s not the best any longer, at least not with a new crop of young pool players.
“The Color of Money” is a fitting story to finish off what Gleason and Newman did in “The Hustler”, it’s a movie that requires a double feature type of night. I saw these movies back to back, and the ethos that becomes provided with the films narratives is the reason why cinema is so important today. The ethos here, the pathos, and overall direction delivers on everything you want in a movie. If you have a heart, if you read books, and love culture in general, this is one hell of a movie.
I’ll leave you with this, sports are a metaphor for life, and in the case of this movie about an old time hustler and a new up and comer, it is illustrated with ease.