Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: In honor of The Wolf Of Wall Street, we look back on a few of Scorsese’s most underrated movies.
The Color Of Money (1986)
Though it initially suffered unflattering comparisons to The Hustler, its 1961 predecessor, The Color Of Money remains a fantastic Martin Scorsese effort—a work of swaggering excitement and romance. Based on a novel by Walter Tevis, Scorsese’s 1986 sequel finds Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) making money selling Wild Turkey to his bar-owner girlfriend Janelle (Helen Shaver)—until he spies hotshot pool player Vincent (Tom Cruise) hustling his own protégé Julian (John Turturro), and the promise of a big payday out on the road proves too tempting to pass up. Teaming with Vincent, as well as the young man’s tough-as-nails girlfriend and manager Carmen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), Eddie reverts back to his former (a.k.a. true) scam-artist self. He teaches the young stud how to reign in his hotheaded pride; by taking a few dives, Vincent can create odds against his favor in the Atlantic City tournament the three work toward.
While The Color Of Money trades in mentor-disciple and passing-of-the-guard dynamics, its true interest focuses less on Vincent or Carmen than it does on Eddie, who soon realizes that being a behind-the-scenes guru is an unacceptable role. In an Oscar-winning performance, Newman embodies his pool shark with a magnetic combination of laid-back swagger, quiet confidence, and suppressed, silent fury. In the process he outshines a charismatically cocky Cruise and an outwardly brusque, subtly vulnerable Mastrantonio. Working with regular collaborators Thelma Schoonmaker (editor) and Michael Ballhaus (cinematography), Scorsese directs with the grace and poise of a master in complete control of his material. As such, he’s a filmmaker in perfect harmony with his story’s protagonist, as well as his peerlessly cool lead, who delivers a simultaneously melancholy and defiant portrait of a man raging against the dying of the light.
Availability: The Color Of Money is available on Blu-ray and DVD (which can obtained through Netflix) and to rent or purchase through the major digital services.