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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.11%
Worth A Look: 37.84%
Just Average40.54%
Pretty Crappy: 5.41%
Sucks: 8.11%

4 reviews, 13 user ratings

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Two for the Money
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by Peter Sobczynski

"I liked the part where Pacino started screaming."
4 stars

If there is something to be said about “Two for the Money,” it is that Al Pacino does one hell of an Al Pacino impression and there is not a single moment in which he is on the screen when he wants you to forget it. Instead of the kind of subtle and nuanced performance that he still capable of (which he demonstrated as recently as last year with his moving and restrained turn as Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice”), he turns in the kind of over-the-top scenery-chewing that seems excessive even by his standards–his Tony Montana was a model of minimalism by comparison. However, in this case, such a performance is not necessarily a bad thing because it is so freakily overblown that you can’t take your eyes off of it even while the rest of the film is going up in flames

Matthew McConaughey stars as Brandon Lang, a hot-dog college athlete whose dreams of NFL glory were shattered along with his knee during a key game. Six years later, he still holds onto the pipe dream of making it into the majors but ekes out a living recording phone-line messages for a fly-by-night 900-number company. One day, he is asked to fill in for the sports-book guy and demonstrates a preternatural gift for picking the winners. This ability catches the eyes of Walter Abrams (Pacino), a hot-shot New York sports-book agent with dreams of forming his own empire on the foundation of the 200 billion that Americans gamble every year. He hires Brandon, shows him the ropes and gives him a fancy new image and before long, he is bringing astonishing sums of money into the firm. This comes as a delight to any number of degenerate gamblers, the disregard of the employee who used to be the golden boy (Jeremy Piven) and the dismay of Toni (Rene Russo) Walter’s long-suffering wife and a woman who has seen the depths that her husband has sunk to in the pursuit of his many addictions and fears that Brandon’s amazing good luck may send the man, who apparently has a crippling fear of success, back into another downward spiral.

At the height of his game, inevitably, Brandon begins to get cocky and blows nearly all of his picks for a couple of weeks. He goes back to buckling down but it is to no avail–his lucky streak is going and Walter’s fortunes, which are tied to his new protégée in more ways than one, are going with it. Adding another complication is the apparent attraction growing between Brandon and Toni. Before long, we come to that sequence that is a given in nearly every sports-related movie–the Final Game with an outcome that will resolve everything for everyone one way or another. This may be the first time in recent memory, however, where the people whose very fortunes (financial and otherwise) are in play aren’t even in the stadium for the game itself.

“Two for the Money” is being pitched as a sort of “Wall Street” for the gambling industry, complete with the wise and greedy professional, the callow and greedy newcomer and the actresses who seem to have been hired simply as eye candy because they are given nothing of consequence to do. Although I consider “Wall Street” to be one of Oliver Stone’s less-effective films, it did deliver an astonishingly detailed look at the world of the stock market and even if you hated the movie, you still came away from it having learned something about a world that is alien to most of us. The central flaw of “Two for the Money” is that I never got the sense that I was learning anything at all. Oh sure, the dialogue is peppered with stray details but Dan Gilroy’s screenplay never ties them together in a way that would allow an outsider to understand what is going on or why so many people would entrust so much money on the word of total strangers when they could probably get the same results from a hopped-up monkey with a dart gun.

Instead, Gilroy and director D.J. Caruso stick to the tried-and-true soap-opera formulas that we have seen a billion times before. Brandon has daddy issues, can’t handle success and is unsure of how to properly approach a father figure who looks at him alternately as a surrogate son and a meal ticket. Walter has all of his psychological problems and, in a development that goes nowhere, a bum ticker to boot. Toni spends all of her on-screen time dithering about the problems of the two men in her life. The gamblers (including a big-money player portrayed by Armand Assante doing his best Tom Sizemore impression) are happy when they win, upset when they lose but never offer any insight into why they put themselves through such an ordeal every week.

These are considerable flaws and they are not the only ones to be found in “Two for the Money”–I’ll just say that a climax involving people sitting around watching a game on television is not the most cinematically exciting thing you will see in this lifetime. However, these problems are overwhelmed by the perversely fascinating sight of Al Pacino chewing the scenery (and possibly the cameras) in a performance so wildly overscaled that a word like “operatic” doesn’t even begin to describe it. Whether he is describing the sight of a shirtless McConaughey to Russo as “a serious side of beef,” defending his vulgarity by claiming that “it was all right for Chaucer,” invading a Gamblers Anonymous meeting to pass out his business cards or dismissing an underling as “a lactose-intolerant fuck,” he has single-handedly supplied impressionists with new material for years.

Even more entertaining is Pacino’s obvious zeal for the material–although he must have known going in that it wouldn’t turn out to be one of his landmark achievements, he still tears into the part with an energy and enthusiasm that is contagious. He is clearly having a blast and anyone watching him will feel the same way. “Two for the Money” isn’t a very good movie by even the most lax of standards but whenever Pacino digs into a scene, it does become a pretty entertaining one.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13159&reviewer=389
originally posted: 10/06/05 23:53:26
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User Comments

9/20/08 mr.mike Didn't care about sports , gambling or the characters. Paychecks for Al & Matt. 2 stars
1/13/07 chris not the kind of thing i usually watch but i enjoyed this 4 stars
12/07/06 ariaria al pacino turns anything he touches into gold! 5 stars
5/22/06 zaw Good Pacino! 5 stars
5/11/06 Jeff Bayless Good story but bad acting 3 stars
5/09/06 Nicole L. Too predictable and Pacino is annoying. 2 stars
1/29/06 WiseMan My Uncle got killed by Russian Mobsters To Gambling, So i can Relate to this movie. 5 stars
1/21/06 Jeff Anderson A big waste of talent & time(especially Pacino's)! This could & should have been great. 1 stars
10/11/05 Elizabeth S Pacino is always fascinating to watch -- interesting film. 3 stars
10/09/05 nayan its pacino so all you haters can go to hell 4 stars
10/08/05 rory not very good, not worth the 10 bucks i spend. Wait for this 1 to come out on cable... 3 stars
10/07/05 Kid_Chronic Erik Childress has no idea what gambling is, 2 for the $ is 100% inaccurate 1 stars
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  07-Oct-2005 (R)
  DVD: 17-Jan-2006



Directed by
  D.J. Caruso

Written by
  Dan Gilroy

  Al Pacino
  Matthew McConaughey
  Rene Russo
  Jeremy Piven
  Armand Assante
  Jaime King

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