The Color of Money (Blu-ray)
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 119 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 2.0 French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 20.00
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Review Date: June 29, 2012
Now a wholesale liquor salesman, Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) no longer plays pool, but his love of the game finds him keeping his eye out for the next champion hustler or the next easy mark. He’s been staking hustlers in low end clubs when he happens on the wildly talented but unpredictable Vincent Lauria (Tom Cruise). Vince has a killer break and mad skills with a cue, but neither he nor his girl friend Carmen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) know how to parlay that into big money. With a major tournament coming up in six weeks in Atlantic City, Eddie offers to bankroll Vince teaching him every crafty trick he knows for drawing in suckers and making living expenses while keeping a low enough profile to keep the odds low on Vince in the upcoming contest. Vince’s pride and flaky nature often get the best of him ruining Eddie’s plans, but being around Vince’s great ability awakens in Eddie his own dormant desires to regain some of the glory days he experienced so long ago.
Martin Scorsese dredges up all of the seedy atmosphere and desperation present in these back alley pool joints that gives his film a life of its own. He also manages to find a variety of ways to make the pool games interesting: sometimes shooting from a ball’s point of view, other times taking the camera high to observe the shots and the players and the spectators fixated on what’s happening. While Vince is a showy character, it’s Eddie we keep our eyes on throughout basking in his successes and cringing with his failures (and in one memorable sequence, an abject humiliation which is likely what tipped the Oscar scales in Newman’s favor in 1986). He’s the living embodiment of his watch phrase that “Money won is sweeter than money earned,” and his every move, his every machination holds us in rapt attention. While the film doesn’t have quite the stark menace or the memorable antagonist of Minnesota Fats found in Robert Rossen’s The Hustler (it’s clear Vince and Eddie are going to play each other eventually), The Color of Money has its own textures: bittersweet but less consumptive than its predecessor.
Paul Newman does dominate the proceedings, and one wouldn’t wish it any other way. Tom Cruise plays Vince with the patented arrogance and swagger that propelled him through a host of roles in the 1980s without really offering anything new even under Scorsese’s expert hand. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, on the other hand, makes a great partner in different ways for both Eddie (as a quick study on his manipulative techniques) and Vince (sexually and managerially) earning herself an Oscar nomination for her excellent work. Helen Shaver has a couple of effective scenes as Eddie’s lady friend while one should look fast for a young Forest Whitaker as Amos, a player who isn’t quite what he seems.
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully represented in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. One will have to look long and hard to find a more erratic, inconsistent, and unappealing transfer on Blu-ray. The digital manipulation leaves bleached-out spots on the complexions of the stars in various scenes, and sharpness is all over the map, sometimes precise but often indistinct and unsatisfying. Color management is also mishandled with thick, pasty flesh tones that look most unreal. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix places music supervisor Robbie Robertson’s use of pop and jazz tunes from the likes of Charlie Parker, Bo Diddley, and Eric Clapton into the fronts and rears with a concentration on the former. Dialogue has been well recorded and resides in the center channel. Not as much has been done with the ambience of the streets and pool halls where the characters spend much of their time, but there is some rather impressive bass that can be heard from time to time in the LFE channel.
There are no bonus features on the disc.
The Blu-ray does have promo trailers for The Odd Life of Timothy Green and John Carter.
3/5 (not an average)
Paul Newman’s Oscar-winning performance in The Color of Money is something to see, but this Blu-ray release offers a very poor means of doing so. With its below average visuals and no bonus features, this is a disappointing way to treat one of the better films of both the actors involved and its director.