When Martin Scorsese made the Color of Money (and yes, I know colour is spelt wrong) he was already one of the greatest film makers working in cinema. The 1986 sequel to the grossly entertaining The Hustler (1961) showcases just how much a talent Scorsese was. The Film which follows 25 years on from the events of the first one; sees ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) now retired from the world of pool sharking and making a good living selling alcohol. However he is pulled back into the world by a young fast talking Vincent Lauria (played by Tom Cruise) and his girlfriend Carmen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). The film follows the trio as they work there way across country hustling at pool and preparing for a 9 ball championship in Atlantic City, which draws Newman’s Eddie back into the game, a game that he is clearly outstanding at.
The story itself isn’t one that should draw much attention; but it is the commitment from the director to make a film that pays the perfect homage to what has come before it without the need to have seen the original film from 25 years beforehand. Scorsese is able to let his actors have fun with the roles; which is showcased in Crusie’s Samurai type movements after winning a game and Newman’s relaxed swagger. Both men are giving some of the best performances of there careers; and in my opinion this is on of Cruises best roles before he became Hollywood’s last great movie star. There is also a great turn from a young Forrest Whittker as the Hustler who prompts the return from Felson.
The above being said it isn’t the acting that makes this film one of Scorsese’s best; it is in fact his playful direction of every pool playing scene. In the opening 5 minutes of the film you already know what the game of 9 ball is all about. In his own voice over Scorsese makes you want to know about the world you are about to see. The pool playing scenes at times are shot and cut together more like a music video than a human drama. This is a Masterclass in making action out of nothing, shots never linger they are in and out, tracking shots aren’t over used, quick cuts are perfectly placed. Scorsese at this point in his career was still learning the ropes and he had already made Raging Bull, Taxi Driver and Mean Streets. It is clear to see that this film forms some of the base on which Goodfellas built.
It should be remembered more than the film that got Newman his Oscar after 8 nominations. This film in my opinion is one the great films of the 80s, that I am sure has influenced many a film since. When Scorsese finally hangs up his lens (I hope that never happens) or he takes his place in God’s directors chair, most people will talk about Goodfellas, Raging Bull or Wolf of Wall Street; I will be telling people to watch this, I will be telling people that is the perfect Scorsese film. Although it isn’t perfect you can quite easily imagine Cruise taking up his role again in a Color of Money sequel and it would it make perfect sense. This is one of the most underrated Films of the 1980s and you all should see it as soon as you can.