Two for the Money
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir DJ Caruso
scr Dan Gilroy
with Al Pacino, Matthew McConaughey, Rene Russo, Armand Assante, Jeremy Piven, Jaime King, Kevin Chapman, Ralph Garman, Gedde Watanabe, Carly Pope, Charles Carroll, Craig Veroni
release US 7.Oct.05, UK 10.Mar.06
05/US Universal 2h02

Yes, daddy: McConaughey and Pacino

pacino mcconaughey russo

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Two for the Money There's an intriguing idea in this drama about an odd mentor-protégé relationship, but the filmmakers are so caught up in the macho posturing that anything insightful is lost along the way.

Brandon (McConaughey) refuses to give up on his dream of playing professional football, despite a career-ending injury. Working in a Vegas call centre, he finds that he has a skill for predicting winners, and is soon poached by New York sports advisor Walt (Pacino), who's been looking for someone to take over his lucrative business if his dodgy heart stops. Walt's savvy wife (Russo) approves, and soon Brandon becomes a top sports-gambling tipster. But can his winning streak last?

What could have been an involving character drama is taken over by a plot that piles corny suspicions and jealousies on top of false leads and contrived situations. The "true story" has clearly been mangled according to Hollywood formulae, and as a result loses all connection to the real world. And all the manly swearing, grunting and air-punching is so annoying that we don't care.

Pacino can do this kind of role in his sleep--kinetic, funny, scary, warm. McConaughey continues his metamorphosis into Mr Universe, flexing his pecs and abs to distract us from Brandon's complete lack of personality. His intensity carries him through, but he's basically just a side of beef. Russo has the most interesting role, but the filmmakers seem to think she's merely window dressing. The supporting cast, especially King, are criminally underused.

After abandoning most of the important plot threads, the filmmakers add a disturbing sermon about the dangers of gambling, all while using addiction as a mere plot device then painting betting as lucrative and thrilling. This is conveyed in that slick, lush, efficient, anonymous style of filmmaking-by-numbers. It's so pumped full of testosterone that we don't like any of the characters, and the lame attempts to add both a level of conflict and a big climax are straight out of Screenwriting 101. It just leaves you wondering what the true story really is, because it has to be better than this.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, brief violence 24.Feb.06

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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall