Monday, July 27, 2015

The Color of Money

Based on the novel by Walter Tevis, The Color of Money is the sequel to another Tevis novel in The Hustler in which “Fast” Eddie Felson has retired from the world of pool-hustling as he catches the eye of a young hustler in whom he wants to support only to be coaxed back into the game. Directed by Martin Scorsese and screenplay by Richard Price, the film plays into a man who tries to disconnect himself from the world that made him famous only to come back after seeing a young man with talent as Paul Newman reprises his role as “Fast” Eddie Felson. Also starring Tom Cruise, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Helen Shaver, John Turturro, Forest Whitaker, and Bill Cobbs. The Color of Money is a compelling and rapturous film from Martin Scorsese.

Set more than twenty years after “Fast” Eddie Felson had become the greatest pool hustler in the streets, the film revolves around a retired Felson who has now become a successful liquor salesman while making money on other hustlers. Yet, he catches the eye of a young hustler whom he sees as someone with the potential to be great as he takes the young man and his girlfriend on the road to teach him the trade of hustling. Along the way, Felson teaches Vincent Lauria (Tom Cruise) about how to make money and how to lose below his abilities in order to win big. By traveling to famous pool halls around the country before taking part of a big 9-ball tournament in Atlantic City, Felson finds himself getting the urge to return but has to contend with aging as well as the fact that there are those who are younger and know the trade of hustling just as good as he did.

Richard Price’s screenplay explores the world of hustling as Felson is someone who is a master at it but hasn’t played in more than 20 years while his eyesight has sort of deteriorated. Though he tries to live a normal life while watching pool hustling from afar, he finds something in Vincent that makes him want to come back. While Vincent is talented, he is immature as Felson would take him under his wing along with Vincent’s girlfriend Carmen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) who has managed Vincent’s dealings as she would pay close attention to Felson’s methods. Even as she would help Felson in playing the role of hustler as it would cause some issues with the very immature Vincent who realizes that part of the art of hustling is to act the part of being someone who isn’t good and then hustle that player. Through Vincent, Felson would live through him but would eventually become selfish once Vincent improves as its third act would have both men attend the tournament against each other.

Martin Scorsese’s direction is very stylish not just in his presentation of the world of 9-ball pool and hustling but also in a world where it’s about survival and making money anyway a person can. Shot largely in parts of Chicago as well as bits of Atlantic City, the film plays like a world that is changing where the valor and classiness of the pool halls is now nothing more than an urban decay of sorts. While Scorsese does bring in some stylish usage of close-ups and medium shots along with some simpler moments, it is all about the sense of atmosphere in these pool halls as well as the need to play and hustle someone. Scorsese’s approach to the games are presented with a sense of rhythm as well as a bit of psychology into what will take for that person to win and win big but also how to lose and then make that person feel like shit.

Scorsese would also go into extreme close-ups to showcase a pool ball being hit by a pool cue as well as other elements that definitely play into a sense of style. Notably in his approach to tracking shots where he would go from a medium to wide or vice-versa as it plays into Felson’s love-hate relationship with hustling. There’s also some unique crane shots that Scorsese would use as it would be prominent in the film’s third act in the 9-ball tournament in Atlantic City. Many of the images that Scorsese would create are very unconventional as it strays from what is expected in films like this but it also plays into how intense these games are where it is about strategy and see how one can lose. Overall, Scorsese creates a very engaging and riveting film about a former pool hustler teaching a young hustler the trick of the trade.

Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from its usage of natural lights for some of the exteriors and daytime interiors to the lighting in some of the pool halls as well as the lightings for the tournament. Editor Thelma Schoonmaker does incredible work with the editing with her stylish approach to montages, jump-cuts, and dissolves to play into the world of pool and hustling. Production designer Boris Leven and set decorator Karen O’Hara do fantastic work with the design of the pool halls from the richness of the one in Atlantic City to the more decayed, street look of the ones Vincent and Felson go to.

Costume designer Richard Bruno does nice work with the costumes to play into the youthful look of Vince as well as the suits that Felson wears to represent his sense of the old school. Sound editor Skip Lievsay does superb work with the sound as it plays into the atmosphere of the bars and pool halls the characters go to as it has a sense of atmosphere that is very street and has its own sense of rules. The film’s music by Robbie Robertson is great as it is largely blues-based music to play into the world of the pool halls while compiling a soundtrack that features music from Phil Collins, Warren Zevon, Robert Palmer, Mark Knopfler, B.B. King, Willie Dixon, Don Henley, and Eric Clapton.

The casting by Gretchen Rennell is brilliant as it features some notable appearances and small roles from punk rock legend Iggy Pop as an opponent Vince hustles on the road, professional pool players Grady Mathews, Steve Mizerak, Keith McCready, and Jimmy Mataya as themselves, and Bill Cobbs as an old friend of Felson who runs a pool hall. John Turturro is terrific as a friend of Felson who gets beaten by Vince as he thinks he can take him. Forest Whitaker as a young hustler Felson faces off with where the result would have serious consequences for Felson. Helen Shaver is wonderful as Felson’s girlfriend Janelle who tries to keep Felson grounded while being aware of his past as a hustler as she wonders if he’ll lose it all over again.

Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is amazing as Carmen as Vince’s girlfriend who joins Vince and Felson on the road while learning about Felson’s methods very closely as she realizes there is more than what is going on as she tries to make sure that Vince is well-paid and succeeds. Tom Cruise is excellent as Vincent Lauria as a young pool hustler who is great at pool but lacks the knowledge to make serious money as he copes with his immaturity and what Felson wants from him. Finally, there’s Paul Newman in a remarkable performance as “Fast” Eddie Felson as a former pool hustler who is fascinated by the young Vince as he wants to mentor him only to find himself back in the world that he’s been detached from for so many years as it’s a performance full of energy but also one of humility as Newman brings a lot of gravitas to the role as it’s one of his best performances.

The Color of Money is a phenomenal film from Martin Scorsese that features a great performance from Paul Newman as “Fast” Eddie Nelson. Along with amazing performances from Tom Cruise and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and a killer soundtrack. The film isn’t just one of Scorsese’s most entertaining films but also a key study into the world of hustling and an old veteran trying to teach a young hustler the trades of making big money in a cruel world. In the end, The Color of Money is a sensational film from Martin Scorsese.

Related: The Hustler

Martin Scorsese Films: (Who’s That Knocking on My Door?) - (Street Scenes) - Boxcar Bertha - (Mean Streets) - Italianamerican - Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore - Taxi Driver - New York, New York - American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince - (The Last Waltz) - Raging Bull - The King of Comedy - After Hours - The Last Temptation of Christ - New York Stories-Life Lessons - Goodfellas - Cape Fear (1991 film) - The Age of Innocence - (A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies) - (Casino) - (Kundun) - (My Voyage to Italy) - Bringing Out the Dead - (The Blues-Feel Like Going Home) - Gangs of New York - (The Aviator) - No Direction Home - The Departed - Shine a Light - Shutter Island - (A Letter to Elia) - (Public Speaking) - George Harrison: Living in the Material World - Hugo - The Wolf of Wall Street - (The 50 Year Argument) - Silence (2016 film) - (The Irishman) - Killers of the Flower Moon - (An Afternoon with SCTV)

© thevoid99 2015


Dell said...

Considering how much I love The Hustler and Scorsese, it's strange I've never watched this. It's been on my to-see list for years. Sounds like I need to get on the ball.

thevoid99 said...

I had seen this before and it was due for a re-watch and a review as I finally saw The Hustler last year but never had the time to see its sequel. It is a hell of a double feature. Plus, it made me watch clips of Uncle Phil out-hustling a hustler on Fresh Prince.

Ruth said...

Oh, someone just mentioned this to me at work. So if I haven't seen The Hustler, would I still get this one? Or should I watch that one first? Love Paul Newman!

msmariah said...

I love this movie. It is a perfect follow-up to 'The Hustler.' It's one of the few Tom Cruise movies I really enjoy. Probably because Paul Newman is involved. I also adored Mary Elizabeth in this film. She was really great in this movie too. For some reason I forgot Scorsese directed this one.

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-It doesn't really matter as both films stand on their own. Plus, I saw this film first and then The Hustler as my recent viewing was a re-watch. Besides, it would make a great double-feature.

@msmariah-Yeah, this is one of the films where I actually liked Tom Cruise before he became the crazy Scientologist.

keith71_98 said...

Newman had several movies that really contributed to his 'cool guy' rep. This is one of them. Great write-up!

thevoid99 said...

@keith71_98-Indeed. The man is always cool. Plus, I wonder if he was aware of the man-crushes he received over the years? Hell, he was handsome and sexy.