The Color of Money Blu-ray Review
Scorsese’s 1986 sequel to The Hustler may be an entirely different animal from the classic black and white 1968 first film but its snappy and stylish comeback tale proved just as effective as a highlight in the latter half of Newman’s celebrated career.After past events left him compelled to seek a change in careers, once great pool hustler ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson now makes his money selling relabelled liquor to bars and sponsoring upcoming pool players by staking their bets. When he spots Vincent Lauria, a cocky, young upstart who is seemingly unbeatable at the game of nine-ball, it sparks something in Eddie that reminds him of his own youth, and he approaches the kid to help teach him how to be a great pool hustler. Struggling to impress upon Vincent the importance of losing in the playing of this particular game, Eddie’s mentorship nonetheless rekindles a passion for the game that he thought was lost. Crafting the sequel novel into a very different tale, Scorsese’s follow-up is an exciting exploration of regrets and ramifications, of youth versus experience; subtly mirroring the events in The Hustler through its rising star Vincent, and opening the eyes of the original’s now-ageing hero towards all the mistakes that he made first time around. It's shot with the director's trademark visual panache, bringing life to the back-room game.The games themselves in the Colour of Money are outstanding, electric in intensity and the tension at times is unbearable, as the seasoned player and his young protégé face off against myriad contenders, including a few outstanding cameos for the likes of John Turturro and Forest Whitaker. Cruise himself actually manages to, in this rarest of occasions, take a back seat to the real star – Newman – despite ostensibly playing a rising star through and through. Unlike, for example, his turn opposite Hoffman in Rain Man, Cruise doesn’t even try to compete with Newman here, instead embracing the role as the cocky upstart; one which comes strikingly easy to him. Of course it’s Newman who shines, earning himself a Best Actor Win in the process (whilst Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio earns a Supporting Nomination as Vincent’s smart and sassy girlfriend) and delivering another multi-faceted performance in a role which far expands his character from the original, developing him into a much richer creature who, much like the actor himself, was far from past his prime.
Picture QualityThe Color of Money comes to UK Blu-ray in steelbook only format ahead of its standard release later in the year. Disney’s Region Free release seemingly matches up to the US 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release of the movie. There’s only one problem with that – the 25th Anniversary Edition was shockingly bad, and an example of just how bad things can look on the Blu-ray format.
This Blu-ray release showcases one of the worst looking presentations since the format’s inception.
It’s hard to emphasise just how bad the presentation is – you almost have to see it yourself, and still images won’t represent what the film looks like in motion – but it’s a dingy, grotty, murky, soft, noisy image lacking in any kind of vibrance or colour integrity; oblivious towards genuine black levels and seemingly happy to interchange them with shady greys; and robbed of anything approaching High Definition standard detail levels, with clarity obscured by noise and rampant softness. Although almost no Blu-ray release has ever completely lived up to the phrase ‘doesn’t look any better on DVD’, it’s hard to resist saying it about The Color of Money.
Sound QualityAlthough the mainstream 35mm theatrical release of The Color of Money boasted just a Dolby Surround accompaniment, it’s 70mm prints sported 6-track audio, which is what could have been used to craft an impressive 6-channel High Definition sound. Unfortunately it’s quite hard to tell whether that’s what we’ve ended up with here, however the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track on offer is nonetheless a strong aural rendition that’s leagues ahead of its video counterpart.
Although far from demo standard, thankfully the audio is far from as bad as the video.
Steelbook ExtrasWell, at least the steelbook looks good.
Although not quite as insulting as the US release upon which this is founded (which was labelled the 25th Anniversary Edition), it's still disappointing to find this an absolute bare-bones release. On the plus side, not only is the steelbook edition released months in advance of its amaray counterpart, but it also looks surprisingly good. On the face of it, the simplistic design is a little too understated for this film, which will undoubtedly put off many steelbook collectors. But, in hand, the rich green brings the pool table background to life, and with embossing and debossing allowing both the centre ball to come to life and the title below it, all framed by a raised border around the edge - none of which is apparent in the mock-ups used to promote the release. Even the back cover has some nice touches, with a raised rack around the balls and a frame as well. Rounded off with a striking red strip along the spine which plays well against the rich green, and this is a strong, understated design which may surprise those initially nonplussed by it.
Blu-ray VerdictStrikingly different from the original, Scorsese's sequel nonetheless manages to impress in its own way.
Unfortunately The Colour of Money has not been done justice by this UK Blu-ray release, a mirror of the US's '25th Anniversary Edition' which is a shockingly bad example of just how awful things could look on the format. Even if this had been released way back when after Blu-ray had just been introduced, it would not have been a great example of an upgrade over DVD, but this far down the line, with the dawn of 4K? It's appalling. Fans of the film will understandably pause before adding this to their collection, whether they buy the release in the UK or Stateside, but at least the UK package is slightly sweetened by a surprisingly nice steelbook edition, coming several months ahead of its amaray counterpart.
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