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Movie Review: Two For the Money


Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey definitely have the chemistry in this movie about high stakes sports betting, and it's that chemistry (and pretty much that alone) which kept me entertained throughout this film. Anyone who has ever watched any kind of movies before will recognize the basic outline of this feature: small-town person makes it big, then the big-time changes them and things start to crumble, then they must fight hard to remember who they really were and get back to the happiness that they once knew. Now, this one here does mix it up a bit, but not so much that we can't all recognize the formula. So I'm fairly certain that if other actors were cast to play the main roles of Brandon Lang and Walter Abrams, this would have been a fairly boring picture.

Starting out the film is Brandon Lang, a young boy who wants nothing more than to please his sports-loving father. We then flash forward several years, where Brandon is now the star quarterback of his school's football team, and his father has long since left. Hm... did I need to say "football team"... are there other sports that have quarterbacks? Sorry people, I'm not a big sports nut. Anyway, it surely looks as if Brandon is going to make it to the pros, but unfortunately he is seriously injured as he completes the winning touchdown. And it's one of those injuries where you see the person and can't help but think "oh... that's not right..." while reflexively cringing up. Yeah. Ouch is right.

Two For the Money Fast forward again, six years this time, and we find our talented Mr. Lang working in some kind of 900-line phone center. One day the guy who normally records the sports betting numbers is MIA, so the boss has Brandon fill in... except instead of Brandon just recording the guy's sports picks like he was supposed to, Brandon changes the picks to who he thinks will win. And turns out, he got most of them right. Although he doesn't bet himself, his winning streak continues, and it's not long before he's contacted by some big-wig gambling guru named Walter Abrams. Brandon's life is about to change!

Two For the Money Brandon flies out to New York to meet with Mr. Abrams, and before you know it Brandon is bringing in the money for Abrams own phone betting tip line... but not as Brandon Lang, oh no, that name didn't scream "power!" to Abrams, who instantly decides to give Brandon a new name, "John Anthony", and a new personality, the personality of a man who knows what he wants and knows how to get it, the personality of a man who can do no wrong, the personality of a man who Abrams drams of building an empire around, and who he expects will one day take over this legacy that he is building. Holy crap that was a long sentence!

Two For the Money Of course then every movie fan knows what's coming next. Our Million Dollar Man starts getting overconfident and becomes full of himself, and that's when everything starts to go sour. I know, I know, it's like what else do you want them to do? Stay on top until the movie ends? There's no conflict in that. Have aliens attack? Then we'd be complaining about how the first half of the movie had nothing to do with aliens. Yeah, see, not much else to do at that point. So it's like I said in the beginning, the only real reason to see this film is the interactions between the two leads which are played out very well.

Two For the Money The DVD release has a few extra features, though no commentary with Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey, which I think would have been great to have. Instead, there's one with the director, DJ Caruso, and the writer, Dan Gilroy. There are also some deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes making-of featurette, and an inside look at sports gambling with Brandon Link, the "real" Brandon Lang (supposedly this film is based on true events, though with how much the filmmakers like to change things I'm always suspicious as to how much of it is actually "real"). Anyways, this is probably the most interesting extra feature, even though it's just Dan Gilroy talking with Brandon Link.

Two For the Money was released on January 17, 2006. It's directed by D.J. Caruso and stars Al Pacino, Matthew McConaughey, and Rene Russo. Check out the official website for more.

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