It took me 99 films but I finally got to a Martin Scorsese film for this blog. He’s always been one of my all time favorite directors and Taxi Driver is one of my five favorite films of all time. As much as I enjoyed The Departed, the Academy chose to reward him for the wrong film when there are at least three other films that he deserved the Best Director honor for more. While I wish that the first Scorsese film that I had reviewed for this blog was a classic like Goodfellas or Gangs of New York, his 1986 sequel, The Color of Money, to the classic Paul Newman pool picture The Hustler was an interesting if flawed character study of an incredibly talented man in the twilight of his life facing the end of his own era. Even if you’ve never seen the original The Hustler (which I haven’t), this is an accessible and interesting film that you might want to give a go.

The Color of Money takes place 20 years after the climactic final pool game of The Hustler where “Fast” Eddie Felson (Paul Newman in an Oscar winning turn) finally beat Minnesota Fats and was blacklisted from playing pool again. Now, “Fast” Eddie runs a bar and is a liquor salesman and makes his money by staking young pool talent that catches his eye, like John Turturro in a small cameo role. One day, a young pool shark named Vincent Lauria (Tom Cruise) walks into Eddie’s bar along with his girlfriend played by the talented Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. It is quickly apparent to Eddy that Vincent is one of the most talented players that he’s seen in years, but he doesn’t have the first clue how to properly make money in a pool room. Eddy takes Vincent under his wings and teaches him the art of the hustle as they make their way across a number of seedy billiard halls training for a big 9 ball tournament held in Atlantic City. Along the way, Vincent learns that sometimes you have to lose to make money and Eddy is bit with the billiards bug that got him in trouble twenty years before.

Paul Newman is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood history. Along with his long time partner, Robert Redford, he was one of the most visible and guaranteed draws in Hollywood for about thirty years. This is one of Newman’s last big roles, and while I’m not necessarily this was truly an A+ performance, I’m perfectly okay with the Oscar who won for this role as an acknowledgment of his long and storied career. Much like Clint Eastwood in Million Dollar Baby, this is an actor at the end of a spectacular career going out in a fantastic blaze of glory. Tom Cruise played his role well enough, but let’s face the fact that Tom Cruise is not a great actor. However, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio was stellar as his tough as nails girlfriend. There was a wonderful chemistry between her and Paul Newman that was visible in practically ever scene they have together. She had more chemistry with Newman than she did with Tom Cruise.

The movie had some problems. The story was pretty predictable (although it had some nice turns here and there). It also could you have used some trimming down. At the same time, the story of an old pro passing the torch to a new young buck also isn’t particularly original. The cinematography was phenomenal though, and there were just a ton of original and inventive shots in the film that are pure Scorsese. Anyways, if you’re a fan of pool, you need to watch this. If you like Paul Newman, this is the film he won an Oscar for so it’s practically a no-brainer. I’d say the same thing for Tom Cruise. While Born on the Fourth of July and The Last Samurai are much better films and roles for him, this is still a good picture.

 Final Score: B+

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