The Color of Money (1986) features Paul Newman, reprising his role of “Fast” Eddie Felton, a talented pool player, originally created decades earlier in The Hustler (1961). Directed by screen legend Martin Scorsese, the movie follows Felton as he discovers a gifted, young pool player with a lot to learn about life: Vincent Lauria. Lauria is played by Tom Cruise, then an up and coming star, as he joins a bevy of young talent in the film, including Mary Elizabeth Martrantonio, John Turturro, and Forest Whitaker. Felton and Lauria struggle to control their massive egos as they work their way to Atlantic City for a nine ball championship.
The Color of Money is a blues soaked portrait of a transforming culture. Felton leads Lauria and his girlfriend through the remnants of a once thriving industry. He quickly discovers the game that he knew has changed, his instincts are dulled with time, and once thriving pool halls are little more than the skeletons of forgotten dinosaurs. Gone is the generation run by alcohol and straight pool; it has been replaced by the quicker, more television friendly nine ball, and fueled by amphetamines. Felton lays out all he knows: the secrets of a good hustle, and how a good player can ironically win more money by losing.
Fans of Newman and Cruise will enjoy the tension they develop between their characters in The Color of Money. As Felton struggles to teach Lauria the tricks of hustling with a cue stick, the more he learns about his own limitations and possibilities. Ultimately, both men lose themselves in the game in an attempt to search for who they truly are.
Final Grade: B+