Paul Newman won his Oscar from his seventh acting nomination for once again portraying Fast Eddie Felson this time in The Color of Money.
This is the type of win that is quite obnoxious because Newman would have been deserving winner for any of his acting previous acting nominations besides Absence of Malice. Newman instead won for this film which is unfortunate, since so many of his other nominations were superior to this one. Does this make this a bad performance though, well not entirely I would say.
I would say I feel sorry though for Paul Newman and Fast Eddie throughout this whole film. The first being for Fast Eddie for having to deal with Tom Cruise's character. I frankly wanted Fast Eddie to sock Vincent in the nose almost every time he opened his mouth, Cruise is simply that grating in his performance. Also really this is missed opportunity since Newman could possibly have had an interesting dynamic with Cruise, but anything they could have had is ruined by Cruise, and the character of Vincent.
I felt sorry some more for Newman becuase of this reason as well, as he is saddled with inferior performances from Cruise, and from Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Both these performances are uninteresting, with moments of both dullness, as well as overacting. Newman has the unfortunate predicament that he has to act with both of them most of the film, making for lacking scenes, since even if Newman is being fairly natural, the scene still falls flat due to his two supporting actors.
Finally the biggest grievous makes me feel sorry for both Newman and Fast Eddie together. Fast Eddie is simply mistreated as a character. He was an amazing character as played and as written in the Hustler, but this time the writing falls very short of the writing of the Hustler. The script never really is find out all to well who Felson really is now. There are many indications that he is now like Burt Gordon who was played by George C. Scott in the first film.
Burt Gordon was a player, who manipulated Eddie through Hustles, as well as attempted to manipulate Eddie through life as well. Fast Eddie attempts this a little in the film against Cruise's character, but than he basically stops doing it rather randomly stops, without it only being briefly mentioned later in a non negative fashion.
It would have been fascinating to see maybe Eddie see himself as Gordon, and fight against that, or something like that but it does not even recognize it which is a real problem. There also is no explanation or struggle involving this at all, which is a real problem, since I find it very hard to believe that Fast Eddie would be so casual when replicating Burt Gordon, in fact I highly doubt after the events of the first film he would ever, and I mean ever quote him.
This is just a completely missed opportunity to further explore the great character of Fast Eddie. The amazing character of Fast Eddie is basically wasted in this trivial mess of a film. Barring all that I still don't think Newman is bad as Fast Eddie this time. He still has some charisma most certainly much less than in Hustler, but that does make sense since Eddie has been out of the game for some time. Also Newman does his best to make Eddie suave, and clearly commanding in the right way over manners of the Hustle.
Eddie is inconsistent as a character in this film, but that is not Newman's fault it is the script's fault. Newman at first is effective enough as the extremely manipulative Eddie at the beginning of the film, there is no transition to him stopping his heavy manipulations in Newman's performance but there is not one in the script of the film either, he just basically stops doing it so severely.
After the instant transition Newman's performance is better when Fast Eddie's story suddenly becomes about him trying to get back into being the number one hustler, and pool player again. Newman is effective enough in showing the restrained desire behind Fast Eddie's attempts. Newman also has one single very good scene where he lets himself be hustled. It is a strong scene for Newman, and actually the only one in the film really since Cruise, and Mastrantonio are basically silent. Newman in this one history really suggests the history of loss in Felson, and a little bit of that old Felson despair that was so well portrayed in the original film.
That single scene though is the only great scene for Newman. The rest of the film Newman though is always natural enough, even when his co-stars are not. He has an ease in the role, and he certainly knows how to play the various aspects of Felson, even though the writer has no idea how to properly combine them. This is not a bad performance, it does its best with what it has, its just a shame because I think from that single scene of Newman's after Felson is hustled suggest that with a script with at least half of the brilliance of the Hustler, Newman could have given a truly great reprise as Fast Eddie.