The Color of Money Blu-ray Review
Extracting intriguing plot points from the framework of a pro sport’s story is not exactly asking the impossible. Those kinds of tales pretty much write their own first drafts and the most difficult portion of filming is trying to mirror the authenticity of the real-life action in the game. However, when the game gets smaller, much, much smaller, the script must expand exponentially deeper into the narrative. Very few cinematic classics have revolved around games like chess, darts or quarters, but billiards always seems to be able to raise its stature above the smoke filled, stale beer scented room and act as the proverbial cue ball for dozens of immersive dramas and unforgettable characters. Perhaps its allure could be due to the gray area the game occupies in the Venn diagram of skill, crime and gambling, or maybe it’s as simple as highlighting a guy’s cool factor or a women’s sex appeal while playing it. Whatever tone it’s shaded, the game of billiards has never looked better than in THE COLOR OF MONEY.
“Fast” Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) is a liquor salesman who spends his twilight years as a “stakehorse,” financially backing younger players in the game that he was forced to retire from many years ago. While in a dive bar, Eddie hears a cue ball make a break sound that his ears haven’t experienced since his own heyday. He looks up and sees Vince (Tom Cruise), a half-witted but very energetic pool prodigy who has zero comprehension on how to hone or optimize his talent. Eddie decides to take Vince on the road and train him in the ways of the hustle, while taking a more than modest percentage and possibly living vicariously through him. Surprisingly to Eddie, watching Vince awakens his own competitive nature as he struggles fiercely between teaching and controlling the seemingly invincible monster he has created and succumbing to once again play the game that irrevocably hurt him.
If humanly possible, try for just a few minutes to suppress the idea of couch jumping Tom Cruise complete with Scientology grip, and focus only on the man’s on-screen performances. Even though he’s been nominated for an Academy Award on three separate occasions, Cruise’s movie star status has always eclipsed his superior acting ability and the underrated character of Vince Lauria is quite possibly the “Balabushka” of his career. Like a fine piece of art created before its time, this role has become more impressive and appreciated upon further review. The absolute vacancy of mature thought that Cruise displays with just his eyes is simply magnificent. Equally impressive is Vince’s “evolution” from a cocky simpleton with issues of abandonment to an obnoxious savant in need of no one but himself.
As for the top-billed star of the film, Paul Newman, no superfluous boasting is necessary for the performance that finally captured the “Best Actor in a Leading Role” Academy Award for the legendary late actor. However, the fun little fact that might surprise even this film’s biggest fans is that THE COLOR OF MONEY marks the second time Newman has portrayed “Fast” Eddie Felson, preceded by 1961’s THE HUSTLER in which he was also nominated for an Oscar. Newman was and always will be Hollywood royalty, and his ability to pick up a role 25 years later and step right into an aged version that’s as flawless as if he’d been living out the character’s life all along, is one of the most outstanding achievements in cinematic history.
To further guarantee the “classic” moniker of this film, the supporting cast is sprinkled with some unknowns of the time whose names are now burned in the grey matter of even modest film buffs. And even though this 25th anniversary Blu-ray painfully disheartens by containing zero special features, it’s still a must-own for fans of Newman, Cruise, billiards in general, shady pool halls, bars, green felt, blue chalk, strong liquor, sunsets, the ocean, breathing oxygen . . . in other words, just put this film in your collection so you don’t look foolish.
Video: 1080p, Aspect Ratio (1.85:1): This Blu-ray is being marketed as a “25 Anniversary Edition,” however the studio strangely felt absolutely no urge to include anything on the disc besides the original cut of the film. Even the supposed “astonishing digital transfer” that is boasted about on the disc’s cover jacket is an egregious exaggeration. The picture is no better than what one would see if the movie were simply upscaled on a regular DVD player or an HD television station.
Audio: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio: The audio was fine.
No Special Features Included – Unfortunately captions are about as exciting as it gets for the supplement material on this disc. However, the classic quality of the film is still enough to warrant the purchase as it’s a “must have” for any serious film buff.