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The film continues the story of pool hustler and stakehorse Edward "Fast Eddie" Felson from Tevis' first novel, The Hustler (1959), with Newman reprising his role from its film adaptation (1961). The film begins at a point more than 20 years after the events of the previous film, with Eddie retired from the pool circuit. Although Tevis did author a screenplay for the film, the filmmakers decided not to use it, instead crafting a new one.
Eddie Felson is a liquor salesman and former pool hustler. He misses the action of pool and goes back on the road as a stakehorse for a skilled but unfocused protégé, Vincent, traveling with the latter's manipulative girlfriend/manager, Carmen. Eddie teaches them how to hustle significant amounts of money. But he also becomes increasingly frustrated with them and with himself, until an explosive falling-out results in a parting of the ways.
Eddie resumes competitive play himself, first hustling on "the road" and later in the professional tournament circuit, eventually coming head-to-head across the table with the now-successful (and far more treacherous) Vincent. Eddie wins their match, only to find out that Vincent lost deliberately, having had money riding against himself. Vincent gives Eddie $8,000 as a cut from the bet. Eddie proceeds to forfeit his next match and give the money back to Vincent. He requests a private rematch, but states that if he does not beat Vincent now, he will in the future because, after all, "I'm back."
Subplots involve antagonism with a cocaine-abusing pool hustler named Julian; an up-and-down romance Eddie is having with a bar owner, Janelle, and sexual tension between Carmen and Eddie. Only minor references are made to the original movie (a returned minor character, Felson's "Fast Eddie" nickname, his having been forced out of the pool-hustling sphere years before, his preferred "J.T.S. Brown" brand of whiskey, etc.); "Minnesota" Fats is not mentioned in the story.
- Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson
- Tom Cruise as Vincent Lauria
- Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Carmen
- Helen Shaver as Janelle
- John Turturro as Julian
- Bill Cobbs as Orvis
Many top American pool players of the 1980s had speaking roles, including Steve Mizerak, Grady Mathews, and Keith McCready, and there were many cameo appearances, including Jimmy Mataya, Mark Jarvis, Howard Vickery and Louie Roberts. Mike Sigel was technical director, and he and Ewa Mataya Laurance served as technical consultants and shot-performers on the film. A young Forest Whitaker makes an extended appearance as a pool hustler as well.
Director Scorsese has a cameo walking his dog, and another playing pool. Another notable cameo is that of Iggy Pop, who plays one of the many contenders on the road.
Newman said that the best advice he was given by Scorsese was to "try not to be funny". Cruise performed most of his own shots. An exception was a jump shot over two balls to sink another. Scorsese believed Cruise could learn the shot, but that it would take too long, so the shot was performed for him by Mike Sigel. Standing in for the extremely valuable "Balabushka" cue in the movie was actually a Joss J-18 (which later became the Joss N-07), made to resemble a classic Balabushka.
Absent from the film is the character Minnesota Fats, played by Jackie Gleason in The Hustler. Newman later said that he had wanted the character to appear, but that none of the attempts to include him fit well into the story that was being written. According to Scorsese, Gleason apparently agreed with Newman's opinion that Minnesota Fats was not essential to the film's story. Scorsese said that Gleason was presented a draft of the script that had Fats worked into the narrative, but that upon reading it, Gleason declined to reprise the role because he felt that the character seemed to have been added as "an afterthought".
Reflecting the general theme of the film, director Martin Scorsese delivers an opening uncredited voiceover, describing the game of nine-ball, over a scene of cigarette smoke and a piece of cue chalk:
- “Nine-Ball is rotation pool, the balls are pocketed in numbered order. The only ball that means anything, that wins it, is the 9. Now, the player can shoot eight trick shots in a row, blow the 9, and lose. On the other hand, the player can get the 9 in on the break, if the balls spread right, and win. Which is to say, that luck plays a part in nine-ball. But for some players, luck itself is an art.”
The soundtrack to the motion picture was released by MCA Records in 1986. It was produced by Robbie Robertson.
- "Who Owns This Place?" – Don Henley
- "It's In The Way That You Use It" – Eric Clapton, Robbie Robertson
- "Let Yourself In For It" – Robert Palmer
- "Don't Tell Me Nothin'" – Willie Dixon
- "Two Brothers And A Stranger" – Mark Knopfler
- "Standing On The Edge Of Love" – B.B. King
- "Modern Blues" – Robbie Robertson
- "Werewolves Of London" – Warren Zevon
- "My Baby's In Love With Another Guy" – Robert Palmer
- "The Main Title" – Robbie Robertson
The Color of Money held its world premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City, NY on October 8, 1986. The film was commercially released in the United States on October 17, 1986. This release was limited to only select theaters throughout the country, with the film opening in more theaters during the next four weeks of its initial release. After its run, the film grossed $52,293,982 domestically.
Upon its release, the film received mixed to positive critical response with many critics noting that the film was an inferior followup to The Hustler. Based on 37 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a 92% approval rating from critics, with an average score of 7.3/10. Siskel and Ebert gave the film "two thumbs down", Scorsese's only film to receive such a review from the team.
The film positively influenced the popularity of pool.
Paul Newman won Academy Award for Best Actor as well as National Board of Review Award for Best Actor, and received Golden Globe nomination for his role. 25 years prior to this, Newman was also nominated for Academy Award for Best Actor and Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Drama for the same role, but won only BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio was nominated for Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture. The film was nominated for Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Boris Leven and Karen O'Hara) and Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
The Color of Money was first released onto DVD on June 4, 2002. The film was later released on Blu-ray on June 5, 2012. Neither of the releases contain any special features pertaining to the film itself.
- Available editions of the book include: ISBN 0-446-32353-5 (1984, first edition), ISBN 0-446-34419-2 (1986, movie tie-in edition), ISBN 0-349-10150-7 (1990), ISBN 1-56849-689-3 (1997), and ISBN 1-56025-485-8 (2003).
- The Color of Money at Rotten Tomatoes
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