The Color of Money

Released in 1986, The Color of Money is a sports drama directed by Martin Scorsese, with a screenplay by Richard Price, adapted from the 1984 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis. It is, in fact, a belated sequel to The Hustler, which was released in 1961, with Paul Newman reprising his role as pool hustler ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson.

Now retired from competition, Felson (Newman) makes a living from selling liquor and by acting as a financial backer, or stakehorse, for other nine-ball pool players. Those players include Julian (John Turturro), who is put firmly in his place by the young, talented and charismatic Vincent Lauria (Tom Cruise). Recognising the hustling potential of the new kid on the block, Felson invites Lauria and his girlfriend, Carmen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), on a six-week road trip, culminating in a tournament.

Offering a valuable ‘Balabushka’ pool cue as an incentive, Felson attempts to teach Lauria the tricks of the trade, but is repeatedly frustrated by his unwillingness to play anything other than his best game. Finally, at a pool hall run by an old friend, Orvis (Bill Cobbs), Felson despairs and leaves. On his return, he finds Lauria showboating against the best player in typical fashion, leading to a frank discussion between the pair about what the future holds.

Lauria subsequently manages to lose, but only just, against the celebrated Grady Seasons, as instructed by Felson. At that point, Felson starts playing pool again but, humiliated by a young hustler called Amos (Forest Whitaker), he leaves his travelling companions and takes the Balabushka with him. Felson prepares for the Atlantic City tournament by practising, swimming to improve his fitness and acquiring a pair of corrective spectacles.

In the tournament itself, Felson plays and beats Lauria, only to discover that Lauria deliberately lost, or ‘dumped’, the match. Lauria pays him his ‘cut’ of $8,000 but, unhappy, Felson forfeits his next match and returns the money. With newfound confidence, Felson faces Lauria in a private match for the contents of the envelope and asked why he is sure that he will win, sooner or later, he declares, ‘I’m back!’ as he strikes his break-off shot.

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