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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
TWO FOR THE MONEY takes on the topic of Sports Gambling and makes a serious attempt to turn it into a movie. The story is apparently based on a true one (as per the opening screen statement) but it is from the pen of Dan Gilroy that the well-drawn characters are realized. DJ Caruso (Smallville, The Salton Sea, The Shield) knows his way around matters such as these and his pacing is fine, allowing for the isolated 'arias' in the film to work well. The problem, for this viewer, is the topic: how interesting can bilking chronic gamblers over football game wagers possibly be?

The story is related by Brandon Long (Matthew McConaughey) who begins life as a sports hero and just at the moment when he is ready to break in to the Pro Football domain, he fractures his leg in a winning touchdown. Six years later, and still dreaming of making it as a player of football, finds him in the numbers game with a talent for picking winning teams and calling 900 numbers to urge gullible people t place bets according to his predictions. Enter Alter Abrams (Al Pacino), a recovering Gambler who is making it big in the sports gambling arena. He coerces Brandon to join him in New York, wines him, dines him with the aid of his smart and beautiful wife Toni (Rene Russo), and in no time Brandon Long takes on the persona of John Anthony and makes it big as a TV personality who successfully bilks willing gambling people out of their money. Long as Anthony takes on a life of his own and it is the conflagration between the creator Abrams and the protégé Anthony that fleshes out the film.

Interesting to a point, the story loses steam in the last half and we soon lose interest in the outcome or the characters. And not that that is the fault of the actors! Al Pacino is very effective as the reformed gambler still fighting demons and Rene Russo is as beautiful as ever, acting her role with complete conviction and holding what is left of the story, once started, together. Matthew McConaughey spends much of the movie without his shirt on which is a major contribution to the visuals of the film! Buff and beautiful he manages to keep the heart of Brandon Long beating inside the persona of John Anthony.

Not a great movie by any means, but some truly fine acting from the trio of stars. The supporting cast also gives solid roles despite the skimpy script. If gambling of any sort, and sports gambling in particular, is of interest to you, then this is a movie to recommend. Otherwise see it for the actors, not the story. Grady Harp, January 06
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2005
The general premise, man gets sucked into the world of sports gambling and then tries to find a way out of it. Thats the whole story in a nutshell.

Really, the story is nothing new. Actually quite formulatic. I can't really say that there is anything new. But the thing about this movie is the acting.

The acting is great. Matthew M. is suprisingly very good. I don't think he is a bad actor, but I don't see him as a breakout actor for his acting abilities. He is quite good in this movie though as the arrogant sports-to-go-to man for gambling tips. Jeremy Piven, though in a small role, is very similar to his character on Entourage, but you know, he's great as that character as he is in this one. Al Pacino is always good. Acutally, he's great in this movie. The only problem is that his character is very conventional Pacino. Always yelling, yelling, yelling, getting mad, being scary. But, Pacino is good at that. Though Pacino is presenting nothing new here, he is very good at presenting nothing new. My favorite though is Rene Russo. She really suprised me with her performance. Her struggles to keep her husband (Pacino) in check and keeping (McC) out of the business is well covered by her acting abilities. Though all three previous actors are great, I think Russo steals the movie.

The great thing about this movie was the ending. The resolution is very powerful and is very well done.

3 Things why is movie isn't great:

1. Its a tad recycled

2. McC transition from loser to big man is kind of abrupt

3. The movie seemed lengthy & should've had some cuts

But yeah, movie is pretty. Don't have the heart to give it a three, but not quite a 4. 3 1/2 out of 5.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2006
There is a plot to "Two For The Money". There is a moral, there are some subplots, and there are even other people on the screen besides our three leads. However all of these things are simply scenery, and Pacino and McConaughey are in an eating contest.

McConaughey is a would-have-been football hero, zapped from his potential pro-ball career by a college-game injury. He instead winds up picking winners for gamblers via a 900 phone line in Vegas.

His picks are so good, in fact, that he draws the attention of Pacino, in New York, who wants him to come work for him in Nwe York where he "sells" advice to big-money betters.

If any of you are picking up on some strange similarities between this film and "The Devil's Advocate", poo-poo you. There's nothing strange about it at all, it's a formula that works. Pacino is one of the most charismatic actors ever. Watching him bewitch the innocent costar is the draw of these movies. It worked in "Advocate", it worked in "The Recruit" and it works here.

The thing that doesn't work here is the fact that we see the pattern so early in the movie that the effect wears off too soon to keep the plot twists from being telegraphed two scenes ahead.

Pacino hires McConaughey as a golden boy of football picks. We never really know why he's so good, at least not enough to understand why he starts losing. At first we're lead to think that it's because he's gotten too cocky about his talent, but when his character humbles himself to "get back to it", he still continues to lose. He wants to quit, Pacino won't let him. One of their biggest clients stops McConnaughey while he's out for a bike ride, holds him down, and urinates on him for making bad picks that weekend, and McConnaughey not only fails to share this information with his mentor, but we never hear another word about it. He's threatened with violence against his family back home if he doesn't start picking winners, but we never hear about that anymore (even when he loses big again the next week).

Lots of build up, not much follow through. However two things keep this movie very watchable.

First is, naturally, the performanes. McConnaughey does well with a fairly one-dimensional character because he is very likable and good-looking. Pacino is everybody's favorite bravura performer, and he answers the call in every scene. Rene Russo is quite good as Pacino's wife, who serves as a voice of reason for the egos of both men several times.

The second draw is that we see Pacino as a superpower who ultimately proves quite vulnerable. When his empire begins to crumble, he doesn't get to go the Corleone route and just kill more people. He eventually has to face his demons, and he does so with a restraint and modesty rarely afforded him in "Al Pacino" roles such as this.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2006
Every time Al Pacino is on screen he teaches something about life.

He creates art in any situation. His characters are larger than life so that we can see what we would otherwise miss.

The insights in this film are amazing:

Life presents chances to us; opportunities, gambles, risks, paths taken, whatever we want to call them. We sequence them into a fabric which becomes our lives; our histories. We want to be more than we are, and we can feel alive when we make choices. We share these with those around us, and when we are self-centered we sometimes do our greatest work, but we also risk our relationships and our future when we ignore our connectedness to others.

The win-win is when we lift up all around us, and they in turn lift us. The win-lose is when we "get ours" at the expense of others. The lose-lose is when we drag everyone down with us.

See the beauty of Al Pacino's gifts as an actor and teacher in this film. He lifts every actor in this film, and will raise your level of understanding of the human experience, and our perceptions of our short time here.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The fiercely competitive and beneficial world of sports betting gets the Hollywood treatment in this lukewarm drama, boasted by the performances of its talented cast. Al Pacino is fine as the head of a sports betting company that even has its own t.v. show to boost "sales." Matthew McConaughey plays well against Pacino as Brandon Lang, a former football sensation sidelined by a knee injury who has the "gift" to pick winners. Pacino picks him to join his team and it isn't long before Brandon (now known as John Anthony) becomes his golden boy and a surrogate son to boot. That's the basic plot and it just isn't charismatic enough to keep you interested, if it weren't for the top notch cast. Rene Russo offers strong support as Pacino's wife, a former addict who is trying to keep Pacino away from his addiction---gambling. Jeremy Piven is devilishly effective as Jerry, Lang's competitor and former golden boy who gets displaced. The movie falls apart midway and never really recaptured my interest, but I did appreciate the thespian efforts.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 7, 2006
There's no easy way around it. "Two For The Money" is a bad movie. A very bad movie. It pains me to say this for the following reasons. I'm an avid, life long sports fan and a great admirer of both Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey's work.

Alas, the film is a formula "hick in the big city" tale that revolves around the shark-like world of sports booking. McConaughey plays Brandon, a young studly former athlete who possesses a gift for making game picks on the 900 lines in Vegas. Pacino plays Walter, the chain smoking kingpin owner of a sports book advice line with an addictive personality. Walter catches wind of Brandon's abilities and woos him to New York to polish the diamond in the rough and make him his next golden boy. Sound interesting? It's not.

Clearly poor dialogue shares the blame, but McConaughey delivers a disappointingly shallow, paper thin performance that offers nothing for the viewer to sink his teeth into. You get the obligatory hickory smoked drawl and charming grin, some bad hair, a few gratuitous shots of his pecs and not much else. Likewise, Pacino's role is overacted, stale, stock and downright cartoonish at times. (Think "The Devil's Advocate" or "Any Given Sunday".) Rene Russo is utterly forgettable as Pacino's concerned, salon owning wife.

The film fails miserably at creating an interesting or believable depiction of its characters and the world in which they exist. Every aspect of the film has a contrived artificial feel. The few sports scenes that are in the film are almost comically unconvincing. But worst of all, the story never really seems to find its voice, leaving the viewer to wonder what the heck the movie is trying to say. By the end of the film the viewer answers his own question by saying "I really don't care."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2006
`Two for the Money,' it is said, is inspired by true story, but the story about a washed-out football player, fast track to success, and its consequence, is not an original one. The difference is that the film features Al Pacino, known for frequently playing man of power, and he plays Walter Abrams, a power-hungry head of a telephone service giving advice for sports betting, and organizing his own cable TV show giving tips for the audiences eager to listen.

In `Two for the Money' Walter takes ex-college football player Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey) as protégé, to use the latter's knowledge and experience as former star QB. As Brandon (under an alias) shows unexpected skills and charisma as "sports advisor", the master-pupil relations between Walter and Brandon gets more complicated especially when Walter's wife Toni (Rene Russo), concerned about her husband's failing health, realizes that the master's influence over the pupil is not always a desirable one.

`Two for the Money' is not exactly about gambling. The film may remind you of `Wall Street,' but `Two for the Money' has almost no social commentary on the world of sports betting. The workers at Walter's office do not worry themselves, thinking "Is there any `system' to predict the results of the games?" (except the one played by Jeremy Piven). Walter insists that Brandon should keep pushing, but despite the nice, witty dialogues between them (including the ones about f-word) in the first half of the film, the business and sales pitch depicted here are nothing particularly intriguing.

Al Pacino shows a very flamboyant performance as in `The Recruit' and `The Devil's Advocate' and he is surely attractive before McConaughey who is OK. But Pacino's magnetic presence starts to look weaker in the second half where the film gets more and more unfocused with too much cliché going on. In short, director D. J. Caruso who showed flair for storytelling in `Taking Lives' cannot decide on the story he should tell here. What does Walter want from Brandon? What does Brandon want from Toni? What does Toni want from Walter and Brandon? And most of all, what does Brandon, whose life we followed so far, really want to do? Before the film gives the answers, we start to lose interest.

`Two for the Money' is entertaining up to a point with the three leads who are always watchable. But the script's point gets fuzzy and vague as the film goes on, slowly moving away from the moderately interesting world of sports betting and the mentor-pupil theme, leaving us far behind.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2006
Brandon (Matthew McConaughey) ends his college career as a winning quarterback with a bum knee, canceling out his hopes to make the big time in the NFL. He loves the game and takes a job for chump change dispensing betting tips from a 900 number in a cubicle. His skill at predicting winners in football catches the eye of Walter (Al Pacino), a clever and compulsive entrepreneur who has found a legal way of passing on advice to betters and then taking a percentage of their winnings in exchange for more predictions on football games. The reason he is so good at what he does is because he is a reformed gambling addict who knows that one of the best highs comes with the fear of losing it all.

Walter believes that Brandon is his ticket to the big time, so he sets him up in a fancy apartment and office. When his protégé starts an amazing streak of predictions that come true, he ups the ante and makes him the lead man on his cable TV show. Brandon, a man who believes in God and doesn't gamble or swear, starts to get caught up in the adrenaline rush of fame and good fortune. Walter's wife Toni (Rene Russo), a former junkie, knows the pitfalls of being around her fast-talking, manipulative and hard-driving husband. In addition, Brandon knows that at any moment his boss could die because of his bad heart and compulsive smoking.

Two For The Money is directed by D.J. Caruso. The screenplay by Dan Gilroy is inspired by a true story of an athlete who found a career in handicapping sports events for a 1-900 service in Las Vegas. This morality play hinges on the interplay between Brandon and his mentor Walter; Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey catch all the spunk and sparks between these two as they roll toward grand success (especially when they sign up an obscenely wealthy gambler, played by Armand Assante) and then veer sharply into trouble. The film reveals the rot beneath the $200 billion dollar a year business in gambling on sports events. Why do they do it? As Walter puts it, they are looking for "certainty in an uncertain world." Two For the Money sputters near the end, but still provides a scary glimpse of the gambling addiction that ruins so many lives every weekend.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2013
Interesting. I saw this movie a while back and for some reason I didn't like it. I think I was expecting something a good deal different. Having not remembered much about the first viewing I decided to take another look. I was surprised to say the least that I totally enjoyed this movie the second time around. Both Pacino and McConaughey were absolutely brilliant. The pace of the entire film keeps things exciting. The movie is really a great deal of fun to watch. So much so that it must be a good movie because I really don't care for sports at all, and the entire film is about high stakes sports betting. By the middle of the film I was actually interested in the subject matter of sports betting. The entire cast is superb. the script was fast and snappy, never predictable and always interesting. Pacino in particular made the subject matter exciting because he played his character so well. His character, Walter, stakes his life and passion on the profession and he constantly looks for energy and excitement in that kind of work. The intensity of sports betting, the stresses of it, and the quick pace of the lifestyle transfered well to the screen. I really enjoyed this film the second time around. In fact if this film had made it to theaters this year instead of 2005 it might of had a shot at some Oscars because it's actually better than most of the top films this past year thus far.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2006
I should probably clarify right off the bat that I am not a person who is into movies that have sports-related themes at all. I hated Rocky, Young Blood and all of those other flicks that focus on a hero/heroine battling it out in one sports arena or another. But maybe that's one of the reasons why I loved this movie. It doesn't really follow a sport per se, but goes more into the intricacies of sports betting. Yes, you do see football being played and people watching it and cheering the teams on, but as an important part of a much deeper plot.

Al Pacino's performance alone makes this movie worth seeing; his character probably has more twists and turns than even the plot itself, and that's saying a lot. Matthew and Rene are also great in their roles as the people who love him and want to do the right thing by him, even when it means being "cruel to be kind." It's a movie I've enjoyed watching over and over again, which makes you laugh, makes you cry, and, if you've ever bet on sports or called the betting hot lines, will have you cracking jokes about certain well-known personalities in the racket.
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