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Two for the Money Review

By Shawn McKenzie 02/12/2006

I don’t like sports, and I don’t like sports betting…but I do like Al Pacino’s acting.  Two for the Money may not have been a blockbuster, but it is one of his better movies.

Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey) has had a love of sports…mostly football…all his life.  When he was a 7-year-old child, Brandon (Jackson Warris) used to play baseball with his dad (Gary Hudson.)  He felt like he had to keep succeeding in sports in order to keep his dad around, but by the time he was nine (Dillon Conboy, Brandon at 9-years-old), his dad left and abandoned him and his mom (Denise Galik.)  Fast forward to college, and he is the star quarterback at his college.  During the last play of the championship game, someone falls on his right leg, twisting the lower half of it completely around.  It was a career-ending injury, because he had been on track to play for the NFL.  Six years later, he records audio bits for 1-900 telephone number services, like the Jessica Simpson Hotline, in his hometown of Las Vegas.  He lives at home with his mother and his younger brother Denny (James Kirk.)  Brandon’s boss at the 1-900 company asks him to fill in for the guy who is in charge of the sports handicapping line, since the guy is sick.  All Brandon has to do is read the regular guy’s predictions, but he doesn’t agree with them, so he changes them around.  Brandon’s predictions are impressive, and he manages to predict the winners 75% of the time.  He ends up with the job permanently.  Brandon still works on his body though, and he still dreams of playing for the NFL and helping out his family.  While riding his bike to work one day, Brandon gets a call on his cell from Walter Abrams (Al Pacino), who runs a profitable sports prognosticating business out of New York City.  Walter is impressed with Brandon’s talents and he wants the kid to move there and work for him.  Brandon doesn’t believe him at first, but when he gets to work, he finds a first class airplane ticket in his desk.  He uses the ticket and flies to New York to meet Walter.  Walter explains to Brandon that sports’ betting is illegal in 49 out of the 50 states, including New York…but betting advice is legal, and so he makes his money by charging for the advice.  Clients give them 10% of any profits that they use on their bets.  He films a national television infomercial called “The Sports Advisors” with fellow prognosticators Jerry Sykes (Jeremy Piven), who is Walter’s biggest handicapper (which makes him jealous of Brandon), and Chuck Adler (Charles Carroll), where they give out expert tips and dole out their 1-900 tip number.  Walter tells Brandon that he will start out making daily recordings, as he did in Las Vegas, but with a much higher salary.  He also changes Brandon’s name to John Anthony, because it seems like a more personable name.  He then has Brandon get a manicure and a pedicure from Toni Morrow (Rene Russo), the owner of a beauty salon and a former junkie.  Brandon and Toni flirt for a while before she informs him that she is Walter’s wife, and all of the questions she has been asking him are part of the interview process.  Walter coaches Brandon in the fine art of tip giving, and soon he is joined on Walter’s show as “John Anthony…The Million Dollar Man with The Billion Dollar Plan.”  Walter sets Brandon up in a nice apartment, and he introduces Brandon to a really hot girl named Alexandria (Jaime King), whom Brandon later finds out is a high-class prostitute.  Brandon’s tips bring fortune for the company, since he is now predicting with 80% accuracy, and he is bringing in high profile gamblers such as Mr. Novian (Armand Assante) to use their services.  All the money that Brandon makes for Walter worries Toni, because Walter is a workaholic with a bad heart, and because he has a past gambling addiction.  Walter also does odd things, like solicit business from people attending Gambler’s Anonymous.  Walter and Toni have a 6-year-old daughter named Julia (Chrislyn Austin), and Toni doesn’t want her to see her lose her father.  Brandon’s record goes unequalled for several weeks, and the success starts to go to his head.  Soon he is shutting out his loved ones, and he acts in a way that he has never acted before.  Different elements begin to cause him stress, and his tips start getting cold.  This ticks off some of the clients, like Novian, who enacts his displeasure in a gross way (think going #1 on him.)  Brandon must make a decision if he wants to go on, or he will end up hurting everyone he cares about in his life.

This movie may focus on the character played by McConaughey, but this is all Pacino’s show.  He dominates the screen, even when he isn’t always in the shot.  While he is playing the loud, cursing character that he usually plays, at least he isn’t a character that is overall evil.  Walter actually cares for Brandon like a father, and he wants the boy to succeed.  He doesn’t have an underlying agenda…other than making Brandon and himself rich.  Besides…Walter is too busy dealing with his own addictions and health problems.  Since Pacino has already played this part before and has already been awarded for it, it’s no surprise that he didn’t get nominated for any awards this time around.  It’s still fun to watch though.  McConaughey is good, but he seems to just play eye candy parts for the ladies.  He was probably brought in to get the female audience, since this is a male-dominated movie.  Russo looks hot, and she does a good job, but I hate to say it…the 51-year-old actress doesn’t look like she would be the mother of a six-year-old girl (there was no mention of Julia being adopted, so it is assumed that she is Toni and Walter’s biological daughter.)

Two for the Money is the third feature film for director D.J. Caruso, who had previously directed mostly TV shows.  Using a script written by Dan Gilroy, Caruso makes the best use of a story that is slightly predictable, but enjoyable.  Everyone knew that Brandon would rise and later fall…so it’s not much of a shocker.  While the movie didn’t garner any awards and only made around $22 million in the box office, it would be a good bet to check out this movie on DVD…especially if you can’t get enough of Pacino.

Get the DVD featuring deleted scenes; the making of Two for the Money; "Insider Interview" featurette; and much more:

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