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Tough Guys & The Color of Money

"Producer Postscript" is a feature where Charlene can talk about the Touchstone movies that Mike, and his co-host, Chad, cover in their podcast "Out of Touchstone".  Charlene is more of the silent partner in the venture (she helps produce the episodes), so she's blogging her thoughts on these films for the website.

Out of Touchstone Podcast: Episode 4 "They Don't Make Them Like They Used To"

Tough Guys (1986)

This film re-teams some stalwart talent with Kirk Douglas as Archie and Burt Lancaster as Harry - two criminals who have just finished serving their sentence in jail.  After thirty years, they are unused to society and a large chunk of the film is devoted to showing the culture clash of the Fifties vs. the Eighties.  There are a lot of things that could have gone right with this film, but unfortunately, it doesn't live up to the premise or the potential for interesting commentary.

The idea of two older guys reliving their glory days by attempting to rob the same train that got them thrown in jail is fun, but the movie takes a long time to get there, and while it is set up that Archie and Harry are good at robbing places, they don't come up with a good plan for robbing this train, and there is no explanation of how and why they were caught in the first place.  The plot completely falls flat because it is only stated and never shown that these men are accomplished criminals.  The movie seems to advocate for people to respect and look up to the older generation because they have more experience but does not show why these men deserve respect at all.

The culture clash aspect of the story was also promising, but again poorly executed.  The gag that these men are old and don't fit in, is made repetitively and less successfully the more the story went on.  And while the story attempts to make a comment on how old people are treated negatively (especially in the scenes where Harry is in a retirement home) the movie shows the consequences of aging unpleasantly, instead of highlighting how you can become a better person with more maturity and experience.  It seems to call out the audience at how older people are treated, while also making fun of them.

This could have been a fun and thought-provoking film, but the story falls flat fast.

The Color of Money (1986)

This movie is a sequel to an earlier film titled The Hustler (1961) which starred Paul Newman as a pool shark.  I haven't seen this film, but The Color of Money was a great movie, and it has made me curious to check out the first film.

The story is simple, but the acting, directing, and dialogue serve to heighten the drama wonderfully.  While I'm not a fan of billiards, this movie made me invested in every outcome of the game, and I loved how it explains the motivations behind trying to build a truly great pool shark.  Tom Cruise plays Vince - someone with a lot of talent but no finesse when it comes to playing the game.  Paul Newman reprises his role as Eddie - but now he has stopped playing pool and contents himself with bankrolling hustlers to make extra money. He takes an interest in Vince and decides to train him, which results in a tense, understated competition between Vince and Eddie, as Vince's youth and arrogance seem to wear down Vince's cool, emotionless approach.  In the end, Eddie decides to face Vince play the game, and it's thrilling to see who will win.

I really enjoyed this movie.  I found the story to be absorbing, the characters to be fascinating - there are so many levels to them, and Eddie, Vince and Vince's girlfriend fit together created wonderful interpersonal drama.  The story seems ultimately about ambition, and the effect it has on your life and career, and I think it's impressive that this film to seems to follow the themes and ideas from The Hustler very effectively.

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