To date, Martin Scorsese’s “Color of Money” (1986) is the only sequel he has ever made.
Starring Paul Newman, the story of life gambler “Fast” Eddie Felson continues until Richard Price-scripted “The Hustler” (1961).
The last time the filmmakers saw New Daman in the role of Fast Eddie Felson in “The Hustler” (1959), he defeated Minnesota Fat (The Great One, Jackie Gleason) in a pool game, but at great personal expense forced him to walk away from the game. Probably forever.
Playing was his best Filson.
Decades later, in “The Color of Money” (1986), he was a much older and respected man. Felson is now a successful wine seller with a dedicated girlfriend, although he was somewhat obviously a “student” on the street. Felson is a pool player with huge talent but no discipline, facing random but incomplete but skilled Vincent (Tom Cruise).
Recognizing a smaller version of himself, Felson leaves everything behind and takes Vincent and his girlfriend Carmen (Mary Elizabeth Masterntonio) on a road trip where he teaches these hosters how to control the emotional game of the pool, not the shots.
When Eddie teased, “Money is sweeter than money.”
There is power from the beginning. Michael Ballhouse’s cinematography descends to the level of eight balls, the camera floating on the table and revealing the illuminated crash of the colliding balls. A great story – listen before you see Eddie Vincent (“It’s Hellava Fali!”)
The setting may be unusual for scores, but the theme is consistent with his more famous compositions – namely, men with self-destructive power are willing to bet on everything (“casino” shades). Scores captures the feel of pool halls – the fragrant smell of stale beer, the palate of pool balls and the tones enjoyed in the stench of old money. It lives in this world and presents unlinking with truth.
Newman allows the feeling of fatigue to be visible and visible when he returns to his most recognizable character (and to be sure, “The Hustler” is one of his best vehicles). There was a risk of Felson coming back but Newman’s performance matched the complexity of Price’s screenplay, which was less about who would win the game and more about the cost of all-in with each game.
Newman probably won the Academy Award for Best Actor for “Nobis Fool” (1994), but that doesn’t matter – he’s great here.
Cruz’s first film post – “Top Song” almost feels like a comment about his Mitch “Maverick” character. Vincent is like Maverick, very playful and overly violent but here he is disrespectful. After all, Cruz doesn’t shy away from making this guy a desirable (but never profitable) skunk.
Cruz doesn’t think about being electronic and, above all, sympathetic to Vincent from afar. Vincent is annoying, a “flake” and even worse, a child of a much-needed age in the image of a father (note in the note how he tried to hug and embrace Felson).
Worse, it’s very easy for Felson to have an els in Valsant’s head.
Quick Truth: “The Color of Money” won four Oscar nominations – Best Actor (Newman), Best Supporting Actress (Masterntonio), Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Production Design. Newman won his first and only Oscar from the Scores feature
Cruz came back before the full movie star came into movie mode and took on characters who were out of control, unable to beat everyone (or anyone), lacked zero discipline, and needed a mentor.
Cruz occasionally takes on juicy roles, but he no longer agrees to play the character, which is embarrassing. He and Newman have true chemistry – in contrast to Vincent’s glittering screw-ups watching Felson’s subtle grip of every room he enters, he can give and receive great gifts between two generations of legendary film actors.
“The Color of Money” is simply Mastrantonio’s second role (and the first of which he was ready for the Oscars) but the key to why he works three-person dynamics; Felson pleads with Carmen to help him “control” Vincent, but he is an artist like him as a contracted artist.
Forrest Whitaker only stays in it for a few minutes but it gives a golden characterization. Felson’s Vincent was before John Tarturo’s sunken protagonist came to the real thing. Tarturo makes this figure look like a sad, neglected, toss-off ex-surrogate boy.
As Stephen Freyers did in “The Grifters” (another great drama about con artists), Scorsese provides the opening remarks, where he declares, “Fate is an art.” Price gives his dialogue a snap and crack of the great game of pool.
Price doesn’t always know what to do with the female characters, as Carmen’s troubles were only hinted at in the backstory, and Helen Shaver Janel is around for moral support as Felson’s girlfriend, but seems to have a hang-on (she calls Vincent) to meet him. As soon as “a prick”, which means he is a good judge of character).
Masterntonio also provides a suitable Fame Fatal touch with at least the light film Noir, as his survival tendencies suggest that Vincent could easily leave with Felson if he proves to be a complete disappointment.
Scorsese made the film during an exciting period of his career: the box office failure of “King of Comedy” subsequently derailed the filmmaker, despite praise for “Raging Bull”. As a result of poor box office (and a studio-sensing controversy), Scott planned the novel, “The Last Temptation of Christ,” by Nikos Katzanzakis of Paramount Pictures Scorsese.
The director nurtured his creative wounds by recharging his filmmaker palette and embracing Scorsese’s most unexpected triumph, offbeat and unexpected comedy / thriller “After Hours” (1985).
After the “color of money” came, Scorsese was given the opportunity to make a studio film with big movie stars and handsome budgets. According to the director’s characterization, the assignment was not an objective or sell-out film, but it enriched the expected Tour de Force filmmaking, complex character shading, and other similarities that characterized his other work.
The only commercial touch here is the soundtrack, it has no Rolling Stones track but lacks Sports Phil Collins and Eric Clapton.
An under-acclaimed masterpiece, “Meaning of Color” is not just an interesting sequel, one of the best follow-ups ever made. It’s not a remake, a remade, or a larger version of the original, but reunion – what happened to Fast Eddie Felson and was he able to move away from the thing that crippled his life?
The final scene is not what we expect Mano Y Mano to be a big game (and price teasing continues) but it is a general announcement from Felson. He announced, “I’m back.”
We don’t know if that’s a good thing – after all, did he come in full circle, back to the guy he was before he hit the Minnesota Fats? Or, perhaps it was an announcement that he had found out again who he was, someone who could control his own life at the pool table.
However, you see, it was a win for Scorsese, Cruz and the hustler Paul Newman himself.
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