Saturday, March 26, 2011

#90: The Color of Money

If The Color of Money, in the year of it's release in 1986, were a company at a Stock Exchange waiting to be listed, the issue would've indubitably been oversubscribed. It bespoke of the return of Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman in a role he reprises 25 years later) from The Hustler and this time in the hands of a director no less accomplished than Martin Scorcese. Marty, by then, had established a formidable reputation and the pairing of Paul Newman with him at the helm of affairs would've surely set expectations at an ungainly high.

It is hard to write about The Color of Money without the background of The Hustler, an immensely arresting movie about the exploits of a temperamental but a gifted pool player Eddie Felson. 25 years later, Felson returns with a younger pool player Vincent (Tom Cruise) and this time he wants to make Vincent his protege because he sees in Vincent the gift he had has a player. The only problem is Vincent takes everything lightly in life except his girlfriend Carmen (Maria Elizabeth).

For Vincent, a game of pool and a game on a arcade machine are the one and the same, his intensity falling way short of what Felson wants it to be at. Differences arise in no time and the mentor and the reluctant disciple part ways even as Felson decides to return to competitive pool himself. The story is a bit wayward and though adapted from the book, I thought Martin Scorcese didn't make it very friendly for the screen. As a result, at no point does any one pursuit stand up to be counted. It's a little bit of everything and thus that familiar impact that Scorcese is such a master of creating, gets diluted.

Paul Newman actually got his first acting Oscar for this role but he has done far better in many other movies. A case in point being his soul-stirring performance in The Verdict. Tom Cruise's can't be counted as a performance at all and apart from the two there's little else. What the movie tries to do is really capitalize on Eddie Felson that we knew from the classic. What it ends up doing is making a poor sequel to the classic. For me, this will remain Scorcese's weakest movie not because he didn't have the right elements in it , but because he probably, just for once, didn't know what to make of it.