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