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The Color Of Money

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Many top pool players of the 80's were part of the cast and/or provided assistance, such as Steve Mizerak ("The Miz") who was the player Eddie beat in Atlantic City; Jimmy Mataya ("Pretty Boy Floyd"), who was accompanying Julian (John Turturro) when he saw Eddie in Atlantic City; Keith McCready, who played Grady Seasons; and others such as Mike Sigel and Eva Mataya Laurence (who at the time was Jimmy Mataya's wife) acted as pro shot makers and advisors who set up the shots for the actors.



More Trivia from The Color Of Money
"I wouldn't bother proving my talent to someone who didn't see it to begin with". (Harold Ramis)

In a sentence, that's what 'The Color Of Money' is all about... That, and the fact that life's a bitch; your girlfriend, mentor, players and friends, are all there to serve themselves; you're everything and nothing to them; fair-weather friends and cold hard cash. Expect no favours and remember to cover up when you're down, because they'll be queuing round the block to kick ya...not exactly the fun filled 80's we've come to know and love.

But then again, this is a Scorsese ('Raging Bull', 'After Hours') film; where cynicism is king, and the very least you can expect is straight up, abrasive honesty and more cool-camerawork then you can shake a Balabusha pool cue at.

In an unprecedented move; Cruise overtook himself in 1986, when Tom Cruise, pipped to the post by that other great actor... Tom Cruise, went supersonic with "Top Gun', this surprisingly good sequel to Robert Rossen's 60's classic 'The Hustler' (set in the lurid underworld of bar room pool and focusing upon those who try and scam their way to the top) only found a cult audience in the cinematic fringe.

Typical huh? I mean you wait and wait for a good movie, and then two come along at once, all the more reason to rediscover The Color Of Money, it's a good film with some excellent ensemble acting, well shot pool games, top notch hustling and Martin Scorsese at his most relaxed (only occasionally going hyper with the jump cuts; love those fast close ups though).

You don't even have to have seen the original to appreciate this, only remember that Paul Newman's character used to be somebody, but now he's not; and that's all you really need to know to enjoy 'The Color Of Money'

The movie sees Paul Newman reprise his role as methodical master and "...student of human moves..." 'Fast' Eddie Felson, who's now an old timer, selling liquor to bars and keeping a low profile.

It's in one of these seedy pubs that he comes across Vince Lauria (Cruise) a young kid who's fleecing seasoned conman Julian (John Turturro) right off the tables; more interested in an arcade game than beating his clearly outclassed rival.

Felson knows talent when he sees it, and even stops chatting up Helen Shaver to persuade Vince and his tough talking girlfriend Carmen, played with aplomb by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio ('The Abyss', 'Scarface') to come with him on a hustling tour, all the way to the big game, a 9-ball tournament in Atlantic city.

After some convincing, Vince and Carmen hit the road with Eddie, and it's on this journey that the three find out what's what in terms of their relationships with one another, and the extent to which the pursuit of money governs their behaviour and mindset ...Oh, and they shoot some pool as well.

Verdict?

The Color of Money is a very different film in terms of it's structure and pace, the snappily written dialogue, (from the novel by Walter Tevis) leans towards film noir, which, despite being softly spoken by the actors, echoes Mamet in terms of it's voracity and caustic one liners.

On one hand, this film sees Tom Cruise in familiar territory, as a grinning pool player determined to be the best, whilst Newman occupies that staple role of the 80's Cruise movie, The Mentor, yet in stark contrast to the high concept ideals of Top Gun", "Cocktail" and "Risky Business", "The Color Of Money" works as a subtle satire about capitalist ideology in the 80's and serves to remind the viewer about the duplicitous nature of the world.

There's no big showdown, little romance or feel good musical montage, this is old school moviemaking, with the use of mise en scene exploited to the full, in a shot where Newman walks back into an empty Vegas poolhall and sees row upon row of tables just waiting to be played.

The acting is above average, especially in the moments where Eddie teaches Vince some lessons he'll never forget, whilst Mastrantonio is quite elusive in her portrayal of Carmen (who only met Vince after she tried to rob his house!).

'The Color Of Money' has to be commended for it's realistic style, with Newman's laid back, naturalistic performance as 'Fast' Eddie, complementing Cruise's 'cool when he's playing, a little neurotic when he's not' Vince. To Tom Cruise's credit, this is most complex role he'd have to play that year, and consequently, Tom changed his acting style for it to work; for though Vince projects an aura of cool (being able to do trick shots without having to look at the table is pretty damn cool), he's actually a hopelessly insecure, jealous and somewhat naïve character, all nervous energy and pent up aggression, "a flake", as 'Fast' Eddie describes him. That's the clever thing about 'The Color Of Money', nobody is ever what they seem, even when the film ends, you can't help but think that there's still a lot more to say about these characters; it almost certainly seems as if there'd be another sequel (who knows? Maybe there will).

Some of the movie's strongest moments occur when Eddie's trying to talk Vincent into becoming his protégée by coming to see him at his job in Child World; he makes Vince realise that he's holding himself back and even goes so far as to use Carmen in his ploy. The way in which Eddie tries to play every situation to his favour, goes to highlight the fact that at the end of the day, everyone's using everyone, and if you can see that; play along, who knows, perhaps you'll be all right as well...perhaps. And despite their flaws, we don't end up hating any of these people, because their intentions (even the selfish ones) aren't really that bad; it's a real 'I Do For You, You Do For Me (But I Want More)' kinda message.

Remember that song? "What's the colour of money, what's the color of money; don't tell me that you think it's green me a' no it's red..." well I reckon what director Martin Scorsese's trying to say here; is it doesn't matter what the color of money is, for greed is as opaque an entity as two people standing behind a pool table.

Rack'em up...

Notice any mistakes? Review

Strengths: Great rapport between Newman, Cruise and Mastrantonio.
Cool directing by Scorsese and some fine cinematography from Michael Ballhaus

Weaknesses? Very long.
Slow burn 70's style might not be for everyone.

Our rating: 9 out of 10


Review Written by Kashif Ahmed:  Contact  |  More Reviews by Kashif Ahmed
The Color Of Money