|Two For the Money (2005)
Starring: Al Pacino, Matthew McConaughey, Rene Russo, Jaime King, Jeremy Piven
Director: DJ Caruso
After a chilling performance in “The Devil’s Advocate” as, well, the Devil, Al Pacino has built a career around playing characters of the same persuasion. He did it alongside Colin Farrell in “The Recruit,” and he’s doing it again in his latest film, “Two for the Money.” And even though Pacino has arrived at a time in his career where he can do pretty much anything and still rake in the big bucks, one would be crazy not to question the actor’s decision to typecast himself. And many people have, to which Pacino has supplied a genuine answer, namely Matthew McConaughey. Not only has he been quoted as saying that co-star McConaughey was a major reason as to why he signed on for the film, but the results show in the duo’s fantastic onscreen chemistry. The father-and-son relationship that they seemingly formed during production transpires nicely on to film, and if there’s any reason at all to see “Two for the Money,” this would be it.
McConaughey plays ex-college football athlete Brandon Lang, a rising star quarterback whose promising future is cut short by a career-ending injury. Six years later, Brandon is working a dead-end job for a Las Vegas 900 company when he’s given the chance to fill in for one of the sports betting numbers. Football is his bread and butter. He pays close attention to everything and anything that might affect the game – like the sudden death of a player’s dog - and before long, Brandon’s line is one of the hottest betting tip numbers in the city. Enter Walter Abrams (Pacino), the owner of a “completely legal” betting venture that only cashes in when their clients win. Abrams scouts Brandon’s amazing talent for picking winners and invites him to join his clan in New York, but after working closely with Walter, Brandon discovers that there are certain consequences to success.
McConaughey is absolutely electric onscreen, even in a dud role like this, so it’s no surprise that Pacino was in such a good mood about signing up; though he can hardly be figured out of the equation either. Both actors lend powerful performances that help in keeping the film afloat through a number of uneventful moments, and therein lays the major problem with “Two for the Money.” The basic story is a great idea, with the set-up proving to be entertaining and the characters engaging, but after the first hour, the story loses speed and sinks in a puddle of monotony.
The conclusion to the story isn’t nearly as bad as one would expect, nor does it turn out like most had anticipated, but by the time it arrives, it’s just not good enough to make you feel any better about the second half of the film. Worst off is director D.J. Caruso’s minimal use of Jeremy Piven, a shining star on HBO’s hit comedy “Entourage,” who’s relegated to a small role not even worth mentioning. And yet, despite its total mediocrity, “Two for the Money” has a certain charm that will attract the average moviegoer. Maybe it’s the idea of seeing Pacino and McConaughey (easily two of the most charismatic actors in Hollywood) together on screen for the first time. In fact, I’d bet on it.
The single-disc DVD release of “Two for the Money” is exactly what I would expect from a middle-rate film that had an average box office run: complete mediocrity. This isn’t to say that the DVD is a total wash, but it certainly could have been better. Headlining the disc’s special features is a feature commentary with director DJ Caruso and writer Dan Gilroy, and while the pair offer nice insight into the making of the film, I would have much rather listened to McConaughey or Pacino chime in on behind-the-scenes stories. Hell, even the real-life Brandon Lang (on which this film was based upon) would have been a nice addition to the mix.
Those wishing to see Lang do get a chance later on the disc when he sits down with Gilroy to take about getting the movie made. Other features include a decent, 10-minute making-of featurette, ten deleted scenes (with optional commentary), and the theatrical trailer for the film. You’ll get through most of this material in well under an hour (with the exception of the commentary), but it’s still nice supplementary material to the movie.