Two For The Money Is A Passable Movie About Gambling And Addiction
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Two For The Money‘s trailer opens with an important little speech from one of its lead actors, Al Pacino’s character: even though networks and legitimate sports media don’t really talk about it, sports betting is a huge moneymaking business. It’s not legitimate because gambling, and gambling doesn’t ever leave a good mark on a person’s life ever (just see one of the extras in the trailer lose it after losing a huge bet) but I daresay that even the shadiest of ventures require a little science and diligence to operate. (The good thing about this movie’s setting is that while it delves into gambling, it doesn’t take the low route and paint gambling as an inherently sketchy, possibly illegal operation. Everything about what goes on in the story is completely legal; only the people who make bets are possibly criminals. Or bordering close to that. Anyway, I’m just glad it doesn’t rely too much on those cliches.)
Two For The Money is a movie from 2005 that follows the story of Brandon Lang (played by Matthew McConaughey), a former college football star who ends up working as a handicapper for football games, setting sports bets properly on the right context.
Al Pacino plays Walter Abrams, the owner of a big-time sports “consulting” (read: professional bet makers) firm in New York City. Lang’s thorough knowledge of the game of professional football allows him to choose consistent winners, which Abrams notices, hiring Lang to work for him and make a lot of money together. (Hence, Two for the Money.)
The story goes south when, after Lang makes it big in New York and starts to transform himself into a high-roller in the sports betting industry, he decides to become complacent and bet based on his own hunches, which he then believes is a trustworthy basis for making bets. Unfortunately, Lang starts losing his picks, which lead to the clients he and Abrams have to start losing big as well. (Hence, the aforementioned character in the movie’s trailer.) The film then becomes a race for Lang to keep it together and make a set of correct predictions; after making one last set of picks that turn out to be right, he finally walks away from the gambling (sorry, “sports consulting”) business and goes back to a small town to coach high school football. Which he probably should have done in the first place, but we needed a good story for a movie, didn’t we?
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Two For The Money is a film that looks like it’s about a hotshot’s rise to superstardom within his own industry, and while it really is a movie that’s about that, upon further review it’s also a story about, once again, gambling and finding the need to lose. That’s as much as Al Pacino’s character says in the opening Gambling Anonymous meeting, sufficiently explaining why gamblers keep running themselves to the ground. Perhaps it may sound a little cliche when the Walter Abrams character repeats it during a meeting, but the gambling addicts in the audience may be able to relate when he says that the only real thrill someone addicted to gambling feels is the thrill of losing, that makes them “feel alive.” It’s certainly a tough concept to grasp, but applied elsewhere, in another field, it certainly makes sense. Unfortunately, Two For The Money‘s script doesn’t really make this sound too meaningful or compelling, only using the idea as an explanation to flesh out the backstory of Pacino’s character.
Not a lot of reviewers liked this movie from 2005, but going on the strength of the trailer alone (which is saying something), Two For The Money is a well-acted venture.
It may not be as compelling as Oscar-worthy dramas (which you’ll see more of this season) but for those interested or have a foot in the world of sports betting, there’s a lot of things to bite into here.
Al Pacino delivers an outstanding performance in a film that doesn’t seem like it deserves it from the subject matter alone. Matthew McConaughey in this movie is still building up that string of leading roles (this is 2005, after all, and he was still only coming up) that will eventually land him the big spots that he’s become known for in the current decade. Rene Russo is the most understated out of all three of them, but she also turns in a performance that’s alive, organic, and dynamic, never slouching from the onscreen demands of the two leads.
Other reviews also take aim at the relative shallowness of the movie’s story. It’s about two guys caught up in sports gambling while trying to make money out of other people’s fortunes. Big whoop, and some may feel that the two leads are just going through the motions of a script that’s designed to make them look meaningful and pithy without actually being realistically compelling. There’s too much bloviating of the story’s setting going on, and it’s possible for a script to get people to care about something they don’t know about by utilizing good writing. Unfortunately, there’s only writing of the cliched kind in this movie. Meanwhile, the story is definitely plausible, for sure, but the wunderkind that is the Brandon Lang character sometimes gets too good, concluding in a climax that seems a little too amazing to be true. But if you’re all right with a little escapism despite the reviews, then it shouldn’t be much of a problem for you, for sure.
So should you watch Two For The Money? Sure, if you really wanted to watch a movie about the wild, somewhat shady (but not too shady) world of sports gambling. If you wanted to watch a drama starring Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey, you could definitely do worse than this film. If you wanted a morality tale about the excesses of getting big too fast, this is a pretty good movie to dive into as well. Don’t expect it to be too deep, though; it’s still a story of big-city American excess that you may or may not relate to. There were certainly some members of the audience who couldn’t relate at all to the nuances of the setting, and it’s going to take some really good storytelling for a really specific movie like this to resonate with a viewer who, say, doesn’t gamble on football every Sunday. Other movies have done it, so it’s not impossible. Two For The Money just doesn’t cut it, however.
If you’re caught up in the grips of a gambling addiction, however, this film may end up being good inspiration for you. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors, in trying to defeat your demons the same way Brandon Lang does. So it’s not a total waste of time, after all. You’re just going to have to be part of the right audience.
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