In ''The Sting'' and ''The Color of Money,'' two classics now on Blu-ray, Paul Newman played grifters to perfection

By Clark Collis
May 25, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

Paul Newman was famous for his real-life charity work, but he sure did enjoy stealing money from people on screen, as two of his films just released on Blu-ray amply demonstrate. In 1973, Newman reunited with his Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid costar Robert Redford and director George Roy Hill for The Sting (1973, PG, 2 hrs., 10 mins.), a Depression-era caper in which the actors played con men who attempt to relieve Robert Shaw’s murderous gangster of half a million bucks via a horse-racing scam. Newman’s seen-it-all, whorehouse-dwelling Henry Gondorff is off screen for a lot of the film, and in an excellent, if previously available, making-of doc on the EXTRAS, supporting actor Ray Walston recalls that the role was written very much as the lesser of the two leads. (Kudos to Newman for agreeing to play second fiddle at that stage of his career.) Even so, Newman’s performance is indelible. His verbal jousting with Redford, his poker showdown with Shaw while pretending to be drunk — it’s all terrific stuff. Or, as the film’s old-timey characters would say, ”Everything is jake.” Martin Scorsese’s The Color of Money (1986, R, 1 hr., 59 mins.), on the other hand, is all Newman. Yes, this belated sequel to 1961’s classic poolroom drama The Hustler costars Tom Cruise, and the Top Gun icon is no slouch as a lushly pompadoured nine-ball wunderkind whom Newman’s retired pool shark Fast Eddie Felson takes under his wing. But the real treat here is watching, now in super-crisp HD, Newman’s minimalist acting betray his character’s inner turmoil as Felson is drawn back to the game he was effectively banished from decades before. A solid film, but the disc’s complete absence of EXTRAS feels like a con. The Sting: A- The Color of Money: B