Two for the Money

Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
Two for the Money
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey) was at the pinnacle of his college football career and destined to greatness on the professional gridiron – until his leg is snapped during the winning touchdown of “the big game.” Six years later he uses his uncanny knowledge of the sport to predict pro and college winners for a 900 gambling number in Las Vegas. He gets a call from Walter Abrams (Al Pacino), the owner of a multimillion dollar sports consulting business who offers Brandon the chance, once again, for fame and fortune in “Two for the Money.”


Walter takes the ex-athlete under his wing and grooms the former quarterback star to become the high profile front man for his profitable bet prediction hotline. Brandon proves his mettle and, over time, makes correct picks 80% of the time. And, this is no mean feat in this volatile business. As Lang’s winning streak continues, Walter figures out how to capitalize on his protégé’s almost mystical record: invent, from Brandon, a new person - suave, confident and handsome John Anthony – and bring him aboard Walter’s infomercial cable show to tout the point spreads and overs/unders of the many college and pro football games. “John’s” career takes off with his accurate predictions and Walter rakes in the dough from his now-flush client base.

Such success has to have a limit and Brandon/John, impressed by his own seemingly indomitable predictive skills, begins to falter just when Walter is shopping his golden boy’s talents to wealthy, mysterious and ruthless entrepreneur, Novian (Armand Assante reveling in his scenery chewing). With hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars on the line, Brandon loses his gift and the fragile tower that Walter energetically built (but on a wing and a prayer, too, because Walter is, at heart, a gambler) begins to tumble. The problem with “Two for the Money” is that once this house of cards starts to fall, the inevitable is obvious and you have to wait another 45 minutes for the filmmakers to get to the point.

“Two for the Money” is a slick production that looks very good with lots of contrasting dark and light hues giving some scenes almost a black and white look. Lensing is expertly handled by Conrad W. Hall (son of cinematography legend Conrad L. Hall) with a clean, crisp look lent to the proceeds. Production design Tom Southwell gives the film a cool, hip look with expensive toys, pricey accoutrements and high tech video gear filling the background.

The press notes state that Al Pacino “bares his acting teeth” in his performance as power addicted Walter Abrams. That’s a nice way of saying that the actor gleefully chews the scenery and this works for the first hour or so. But, where “Two for the Money” should have and could have, in more experienced hands, been a tight 95-minute character study and dramatic look at the high-roller business of predicting wins for wealthy (and not so wealthy) clients. Instead, we get a 2+ hour, bloated melodrama that is a predictable “riding high in April, shot down in May” yarn that is better done in such power broker films as “Wall Street.”

Matthew McConaughey is serviceable as the jock turned sports predictor. His rise and fall should grab you but, regrettably, does not. The actor brings nothing special to the table (except looking buff) when he should be rivaling Pacino for your attention. Rene Russo (with, at times, very bad hair) tries to bring dimension to her character, Toni, Walter’s glamorous wife who has her own closet full of skeletons. The bloated script, by Dan Gilroy (supposedly “inspired by a true story” but God knows what that means – look at “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”) is so concerned with its twists and turns that it neglects the characters.

Helmer C.J. Caruso is mostly known for his TV work and I have an odd affection for his feature debut, “The Salton Sea,” mainly for the outrageous and nose-less performance by Vincent D’Onofrio as criminal nutcase Pooh-Bear. I also love watching Al Pacino give life to his lines. Unfortunately, D’Onofrio must not have been available and Al can only carry a weak film so far. “Two for the Money” might have been better in other hands. In the end, I found that I simply didn’t care. I give it a C.

Laura did not see this film.
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