Two for the Money
March 4, 2006
Director D.J. Caruso got his start in T.V. working on shows like the short-lived Buddy Faro, Dark Angel and edgier material like The Shield and Robbery Homicide Division. He soon migrated to the same kind of dark material with his feature films, The Salton Sea (2002) and Taking Lives (2004). His latest, Two for the Money (2005), sees him tackling material of a biographical nature involving the fast-paced world of sports betting.
Ever since he was a child, Brandon Lang’s (McConaughey) life has been all about sports. He just wanted to make his dad happy but that didn’t work and he left when Brandon was a kid. After a career ending injury while playing college football, he fell into the world of sports betting “predicting winners for people who bet.” Brandon finds that he has a natural ability picking winning teams and earning good money for his clients.
Tired of working a crappy 1-900 number job, he looks for bigger and better things and this makes him an easy target for Walter Abrams (Pacino), the owner of the biggest sports betting service in the country. Pretty soon he’s on a plane from Las Vegas to New York City and is being dazzled by limousines, fancy offices, expensive suits and Walter’s slick, fast-talking schpiel. Walter sees in Brandon someone that he can mold into his image and become his protégé.
Predictably, Brandon starts off picking winners for Walter and this gains him a ticket into the man’s inner circle where all the big money is – it is also a considerably more cutthroat world. For example, he meets Jerry (Piven), Walter’s right-hand man. He’s a snarky fast-talker and Brandon’s biggest rival but Piven is wasted in this role as Jerry proves to be no threat at all. Inevitably, Brandon gets too cocky, his luck turns and his whole world begins to collapse in on itself.
Al Pacino slides into seductive mentor mode in a role that he’s already done in The Devil’s Advocate (1997) and more recently, The Recruit (2003) with the con man persona from Glengarry Glen Ross (1992). He is in fine form as the charismatic smooth talker who gets all the juicy dialogue and delivers the meaty monologues, including one in which he sweet talks a room of gambling junkies into relapsing. Matthew McConaughey is quite good as the good ol’ country boy who loses his way. He’s not the naïve protégé a la Bud Fox in Wall Street (1987) but he is dazzled by all of the money, the fancy cars and the beautiful women. McConaughey convincingly portrays this transition from sincere person to someone living a lie. The more time Brandon spends with Walter the less of a conscience he has as he becomes (literally at times) another person.
Two for the Money zips along like a sports betting version of Wall Street with Pacino in the Machiavellian Gordon Gekko role and McConaughey as the not quite as naïve Bud Fox type. Ultimately, the movie is about addiction, knowing when to say when and being able to walk away from it all instead of risking everything for the rush of the moment. Two for the Money is a well-directed and acted movie it just isn’t anything we haven’t already seen before and done better. It is well-traveled ground, most notably by David Mamet who often deals with these kinds of characters but in a much more interesting and penetrating way, allowing us to get in under their skin. Two for the Money never gets past the surface.
There is an audio commentary by director D.J. Caruso and screenwriter Dan Gilroy. The two men talk about how they got the three lead actors involved – they were all drawn in by the script. The movie is actually based on a real person who had a similar arc in real life as Brandon did in the movie. They even point out the scenes that are taken from the man’s life. Caruso touches upon the acting styles of McConaughey and Pacino and how they bonded during the two weeks of rehearsals. This is a fairly decent track as both men are well-spoken and come across as very knowledgeable about their craft.
“The Making of Two for the Money” is fairly standard press kit material that mixes cast and crew soundbites with clips from the movie. Gilroy met the real Brandon on a golf course and was convinced that his life was compelling enough material for a movie. Predictably, the cast and crew praise Pacino and gush about working with him.
“Insider Interview: The Real Brandon” features Gilroy interviewing the real guy and talking about, amongst other things, how they met. Brandon talks about the moment when he realized that all of the things in his life were ideal fodder for a movie. He comes across as a fascinating guy who talks about the rush of his former profession, about how sports betting works and the allure of it. At one point, he even does a mock sales pitch which is pretty amazing to watch.
There are eight deleted scenes with optional commentary by Caruso and Gilroy. Included is more footage of Brandon’s college years after his injury. The two men do a decent job of talking about why these scenes were removed.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer and TV spots included.