Brandon Lang loves football: an injury keeps him from the pros, but his quarterback's anticipation makes him a brilliant predictor of games' outcomes. Needing money, he leaves Vegas for Manhattan to work for Walter Abrams advising gamblers. Walter has a doting wife, a young daughter, and a thriving business, but he has problems: a bum heart, a belief he's a master manipulator, and addictions barely kept in check. He remakes Brandon, and a father-son relationship grows. Then, things go awry. Walter may be running a con. The odds against Brandon mount. Written by
Two for the Money is a decent, diverting picture. The material at times seems a little beneath these fine actors, but the film ends up hitting enough of the right notes to make it worth seeing.
Matthew McConaughey would seem a little out of his league on the same screen with Al Pacino and Rene Russo. By the end of the film, you will most likely feel that he's more than held his own, however. McConaughey plays a former college football star who sees his chances of a professional career destroyed by a serious injury. He quickly finds himself picking college football games for a low-rent betting line. With all of his past experience as a player, he does quite well with it. Well enough to attract the attention of Al Pacino, who runs a more up-scale operation in New York. By the end of the first half hour, McConaughey is picking all kinds of football winners, and making Pacino a ton of money. As you would expect, this success does not last very long as various egos spiral out of control and the betting gods turn on our heroes as they eventually do to all of us. The film is more of a character study about the minds of gamblers and lost identity than it is about the workings of an actual betting organization. Overall, it works on a couple different levels.
Pacino is fine, but not as out of control as you might hope. His character has a bad heart, so any typical Pacino tantrums are not really in order for him. He brings as much dignity as one could to the role of an addicted gambler, though. Rene Russo is terrific as his long-suffering wife and a former junkie. Pacino at some points seems to be trying to lose her to McConaughey. He being one of those terribly afflicted gamblers who only feels alive when he's just lost everything he wagered. The supporting cast is pretty good, too. Jeremy Piven is always appreciated, and so is the appearance by Armand Assante.
The best scene in the film takes place at a betting support group meeting that Pacino and his new protégé walk in on. Pacino, being a hopeless gambler himself shows empathy toward these degenerates, then has the nerve to pass out his business card to them!!! The logic I guess being that if you people have to lose, you might as well do it through a fellow degenerate gambler.
The biggest flaw I noticed was too many shots of McConaughey without his shirt on. Yes, the guy has great abs, but we don't need to see so much of them!! Overall this is a good film with some interesting things to say about people who bet. Notice how in the end, the "experts" are really just like the guys they take calls from. During the big games, we're all just sitting there with a beer in our hand, hanging by every first down or dropped ball.
7 of 10 stars.
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