THE COLOR OF MONEY is one of those films that really shouldn’t exist, but thankfully it does. It was one of those “one for you” Scorsese films that he made for the studio so he could get other, less commercial and seminal, projects off the ground.
What’s refreshing about the film, is that it doesn’t rely, at all, on the film that came before it and the term sequel is a rather loose way to describe the picture. Paul Newman won the Oscar for his reprisal as Fast Eddie Felson and it has more times than not been called his make up Oscar, his award for a career of wonderful, unique, and cool performances. Bob Hoskins is the cinephile favorite for his turn as George in MONA LISA, and for outstanding has Hoskins was Newman more than deserved the Oscar.
The pairing of the old and stoic Newman and the young and fresh Tom Cruise is a cinematic treat, shored up wonderfully by supporting turns and the fast paced editing and camera work. Scorsese builds a quick and glossy narrative about hustling and playing the long con.
One of Scorsese’s strengths is the use of popular music, and this film might just be one of his finest displays of his love for music. From the original score by Robbie Robinson, and Eric Clapton’s IT’S IN THE WAY THAT YOU USE IT and Warren Zevon’s seminal tune WEREWOLVES OF LONDON; this picture has a rocking soundtrack and even cooler imagery that’s cued up to the music.
THE COLOR OF MONEY is Scorsese’s best film that’s nearly forgotten by all. Films like KUNDUN and AFTER HOURS have found their niche markets and rabid appreciation, yet THE COLOR OF MONEY is that film that quietly continues to slide under the radar and is often glossed over if discovered by most. It’s a film about survival and embracing the passion within yourself. It’s truly a great film, and one of the best of the 80s.