The Color Of Money * * * *

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Director: Martin Scorsese.
Screenplay: Richard Price.
Starring: Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, John Turturro, Helen Shaver, Bill Cobbs, Bruce A. Young, Richard Price, Iggy Pop, Forest Whitaker.

It’s a salivating inducing prospect for any film fan to have old hands Martin Scorsese and Paul Newman and new hand Tom Cruise combine, to follow on the story of pool shark ‘Fast Eddie’ Felson from Robert Rossen’s classic 1961 film “The Hustler”. Attempting a sequel to that great film may seem like blashpemy but if anyone can pull it off, these three can.

Aged pool hustler ‘Fast Eddie’ Felson (Newman) discovers a younger version of himself in small-time hotshot Vincent Lauria (Cruise), who’s bubbling with talent and attitude and decides to mould him into a hustler just like he used to be. But Vincent’s mouthy lack of restraint begins to spoil a perfect partnership and Eddie considers another shot at the big time himself.

Scorsese crafts a film that compounds most peoples expectations and first off, it seems like a waste of time and talent. However, on repeat veiwings this stands alone as a very fine loose sequel and a great film in it’s own right. Newman as ever is absolutely superb (finally grabbing that elusive Oscar Award) as the embittered and disillusioned hustler, now working a living from seedy pool hall to seedy pool hall. Scorsese brings his usual professional approach to what is an unusual choice of film for him. His cracking of the pool balls, tobacco filled halls and fast talking cons are spot on and helped by some rich and inventive camerawork by Michael Ballhaus. Despite these veterans impressively plying their trade though, they are almost upstaged by the cocksure vibrancy of Cruise. His performance is alive, energetic, and overall what he’s supposed to be…an irritating little shit. It’s a fabulous turn from him and love him or loathe him, it’s a reminder of how good an actor he can be. Shake this up with a few supporting turns from the likes of John Turturro and Forest Whitaker and the ingredients are all there. What it just about lacks though, is the finished article. The film heads along the path of an inevitable showdown between teacher and student and then frustratingly doesn’t deliver. Maybe this is the correct choice from Scorsese, maybe he wanted to avoid the cliched ending but you can’t help but feel a little disappointed in not seeing it happen.

The anti-climactic ending threatens to undo the whole film but the talent involved shines through, in what is a richly textured drama with sharp dialogue and two magnificent lead performances.

Mark Walker

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