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Two For the Money

It’s no secret that studios are scrambling to amend declining box office numbers, and marketing agencies must be burning the midnight oil trying to come up with ways to fill seats.

Studios need to realize, however, that sometimes sensationalistic efforts can actually deter viewers from ponying up their hard earned cash, and Two for the Money is a prime example. The trailers for the film tease the already tired scenario of the experienced and aged Al Pacino character, a father-figure who chooses to mentor a hot young stud who seeps potential yet doesn’t seem to have the discipline needed to harness the raw power at his fingertips.

Think Devil’s Advocate meets sports betting, and you’re on the right track. That is the impression, but it is far from the truth. Sure, it can be said that Walter Abrams (Pacino) handpicks Brandon Lang (Matthey McConaughey) from relative obscurity and provides him with the knowledge and the wherewithal to dominate the sports bet advising industry. Sure, this happens, but there is so much more to Two for the Money than the simple cliché lets on.

Brandon was a stud in college, dominating the football field and eager to hit the pros, but all of this was cut short when a gruesome leg injury put him out of the game for good. Knowing that his options were narrowing each day spent in recuperation, Brandon takes a job working for a 1-900 number service, recording dry scripts for incoming callers in Las Vegas.

Opportunity seemingly knocks when Brandon is asked to fill in on the football picks line, and the rest is history. His success at the 1-900 line commands the attention of ubër sports-betting guru, Walter Abrams, who woos him to New York to work in his corporation.

The key to this formula is establishing just how powerful and rich the Pacino character is early on, and Two for the Money does this in spades as Abrams shows Brandon the ins and outs of the big scary city. Abrams commands such respect that he can walk into a Mercedes Benz dealer, without a dime, and get Brandon the pick of the showroom floor on his word alone.


The problem is, Abrams' appearance is simply that. He’s a working man at heart, and his industry doesn’t run itself. Abrams is more complex than any of the formulaic Pacino powerhouses that usually lend themselves to this sort of film. He has issues, vices and vulnerabilities, all of which only begin to be hinted at with his heart condition. Abrams' wife, Tony Morrow (Rene Russo), spends her days concerned with Abrams’ lifestyle, all of which is falsely attributed to his weakened heart.

Brandon is likeable for the most part, and McConaughey plays the part well, redeeming himself from the over-the-top arrogance exuded in Sahara. When his fall comes about, it refreshingly has nothing to do with a game of “con versus con” and doesn’t come down to “who’s conning whom” as the official site for the film would lead you to believe. In fact, the film is played fairly straightforward, and the subject matter is interesting enough to carry the film without the disease of unnecessary hype, buzz, or blitz.

If you are interested in the trials and travails of gambling, specifically sports betting, Two for the Money brings to light an interesting perspective usually vacant in most gambling films, which usually place importance of focus on “the big win” instead of the “big beat.” A large loss is usually present, but they are usually placed as a final achievement in the climax of the film, in which characters are redeemed in the process.

Two for the Money looks at the way the big burn, the thrill of the loss, and the eagerness to feel alive drives gamblers back to the trough in more ways than one can imagine.


Mario Anima

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