TWO FOR THE MONEY
When star footballer Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey) sustains an injury and is forced out of the game, he turns his insider's knowledge into a new career as a sports betting advisor. Brandon becomes the protégé of the high flying Walter Abrams (Al Pacino), and swiftly becomes the golden boy of the high-rolling world for consistently picking football winners. Soon, Brandon is reinvented by Abrams and put on television. With millions on the line, he finds himself in a deadly game of con-versus-con with his new mentor.
Review by Louise Keller:
Gambling and sport are the main ingredients in Two For The Money, a wildly spinning thriller that pushes its stakes beyond the limit. Although some of the ideas make us gasp at their audaciousness, overall the film is not the winner we might expect, despite strong central performances. In a way, D.J. Caruso's film is a good example of how a gambler might feel. The highs are breathtaking and the lows are downright ordinary. The script sucks us in and then spits us out, making the running time seem longer than its 122 minutes.
Selling certainty in an uncertain world is the motto of Al Pacino's power broker Walter Abrams. Reformed addict meetings might glue his life together, but there is no appetite suppressant that will curb his appetite for power. This is a man who believes modesty is not a virtue but a vice, and will go to any lengths to get that certain thrill when the odds are high and the future is spinning. Pacino gives out so much energy it's tiring, as he whips his star protégé (Matthew McConaughey) from the cocky end of normality to self-obsessed Mr Confidence. The camera lens hungrily gobbles up shots of McConaughey working out, McConaughey with no shirt, McConaughey showing his body beautiful. It helps if you're a McConaughey fan. Renee Russo's ex-junkie Toni is an interesting character convincingly interpreted, even though I don't totally believe her relationship with Walter.
Conrad G. Hall's cinematography ensures the film has a great look; it's slick and fast, just like the characters and the themes. The script distanced me so I was never as involved as I would have liked. Gambling doesn't always pay off.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Gambling and gamblers are a ripe subject for writers and filmmakers as they explore the human condition, and there have been many stories inspired by the various faces of the subject. This one's a bit different, set in the world of sport gambling and specifically American football results. If you're not a fan of this sport, the film will be less engaging before you start. But even if you are, the film's excellent intentions come a bit undone by its overlong, repetitious screenplay.
I like the dark and vaguely mysterious character backstories that are sketched for Walter Abramas (Al Pacino) and his wife Toni (Rene Russo), and we can relate to the thrill of betting on such wild odds as pro football or college games. In one scene, Abramas sets out the moment of greatest thrill for gamblers in exquisite detail: it's after you have placed the bet and before the result is in. It's not the winning. There are other insights that ring true, and the story has general appeal, but the narrative arc starts to flatten out half way through.
The performances are all compelling, with Pacino in another variation on a theme as the mercurial manipulator, organiser, liar, gambler and all round flamboyant lover of living, on his terms. Russo gives solid support as his loving but conflicted wife, with McConaughey creating a complex and vulnerable character we can believe. And maybe even believe in.
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TWO FOR THE MONEY (M)
CAST: Al Pacino, Matthew McConaughy, Rene Russo, Armand Assante, Jeremy Piven, Jaime King,
PRODUCER: Jay Cohen, James G. Robinson
DIRECTOR: D. J. Caruso
SCRIPT: Dan Gilroy
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Conrad W. Hall
EDITOR: Glen Scantlebury
MUSIC: Christoph Beck
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tom Southwell
RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 11, 2006
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Pictures Video
VIDEO RELEASE: August 23, 2006