Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Color of Money

“It’s even, but it ain’t settled. Let’s settle it.”

The film is a sequel to 1961’s The Hustler with Paul Newman reprising his role as “Fast” Eddie Felson. By this time out (25 years after the original film) Eddie is the old hustler who has lost a step or two and decides to take a talented but raw pool player (Tom Cruise) under his wing and teach him the ropes of hustling. Although the film earned itself five Oscar nominations (Newman won for his role) the film has largely been forgotten and ignored by those who feel it is one of Martin Scorsese’s lesser works, but to me it remains a nice reminder that sometimes sequels are worth seeing.

Newman is terrific, and although the film works better if you have seen the original it isn’t a necessity to enjoy the tale. Cruise is well cast as the not too smart hot shot, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio puts in a strong supporting performance as the film’s smartest character. You might also want to keep an eye out for some great cameos from the likes of Forest Whitaker, Iggy Pop, and several professional pool players.

In terms of sports films (if you stretch the definition to include pool) the film doesn’t rank among the greats like Hoosiers or Field of Dreams. But the film does belong in that next category of films presenting strong characters, snappy dialogue, and a look into a world many don’t know that much about. I’d compare it favorably to films like 1998’s Rounders (which coincidentally also has John Turturro in a small supporting role) in how it takes it subject matter seriously but manages to enjoy itself at the same time.

Sadly the film has only been released on a bare bones single disc DVD without extras or fanfare. I’d love to see this get the Special Edition treatment (who wouldn’t want to hear Cruise and Newman on commentary together?). But for now you’ll have to settle for the film sans extras.

Is the film as good as Casino, Gangs of New York, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver or The Departed? You might be hard pressed to find anyone to argue that point (and I won’t try to here either). I will say that The Color of Money is the most fun film Scorsese ever made. That ain’t nothing, folks. If you haven’t seen it, or it’s been awhile, go out and rent it or simply pick it up (you can find it for $10 or less in most stores). It’s a film that can be enjoyed over and over, and with each viewing I think you will appreciate it a little more.

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