Following on from "The Hustler" 1961, Paul Newman re-creates his role as "Fast" Eddie Felson, who now appears to be a successful Liquor salesmen after being forced to give up active playing in the first movie. He know is found hanging around Pool Halls staking talented players rather than playing, by all accounts comfortable in terms of earnings and career.
Tom Cruise, playing shark Vincent Lauria, is scouted by Newman and they hit the road as he re-discovers his lost love of both Pool and hustling, gambling their way around the state towards the big tournament at Atlantic City. Felson sees himself in Cruises character, and teaches him the ropes on being a pool pro. One of the criticisms of this movie is that when asked about his pool playing days (I.e. The Hustler) Eddie replies "Actually I was retired. Sometimes you get involved with the wrong people. Way back West, it's dead and buried, I don't even think about it anymore", and that's just about the only link to it! One of the characters in the first movie makes an appearance however.
Creating Lauria into the best player, gives Eddie the platform to test himself against his best game, that is the message of the movie in my opinion. Felson creates his biggest adversary, and the movie explores that perhaps in life the biggest obstacles are ones that we create ourselves.
On a simple level it is good to see Tom Cruise, & Paul Newman in earlier roles.