The only thing that saves Two for the Money from immediately being thrown into the garbage bin is the presence of Al Pacino. In fact, they should have made the movie all Al Pacino all the time. One big Al soliloquy. This Al guy can act, I’m telling you, I see a bright future for him in tinsel town.
The non Al parts have some issues. The film is about Al (as Walter) mentoring an up and coming “tout” of football games. For those non-gamblers out there a tout is a person who sells you a pick for a game. The good touts win more than they lose, and thus make you money. Matthew McConaughey plays the young tout whom Pacino takes under his wing. He’s on a streak like you wouldn’t believe, but you have to because it’s based on a true story. McConaughey is Brandon Lang, who in real life is Brandon Lane, a fellow who won a staggering 82 percent of his games over the course of eighteen glorious months.
Rene Russo plays Walter’s wife, Toni. They both come from troubled backgrounds and do their best to look out for Brandon. I’m not going to go into the plot any further, I’m just going to comment that the relationships are weak in general. It’s not that any of the acting is bad per se, but more that everything feels too forced and compact.
The football gambling action is also problematic. The NFL abhors any association with gambling (however hypocritical that may be) and so Two for the Money was forced to go the fake football route. Authenticity is a big deal in sports related movies and the absence of real game footage cripples the film. No, it’s not their fault, but it’s not my fault my eye twitches under stressful situations either, yet I still have to deal with it.
The movie also misses out on giving Jeremy Piven a larger chunk of the action. I’ve never seen a bad performance from him and was disappointed with how little he was used. Lastly the film has some real logic problems. I won’t get into them, and you may not notice them unless you’ve wagered on a game, but they are there.
After all that, Two for the Money is still a “C” movie. Why? Al Pacino gives two world conquering monologues that elevate the entire piece. One day when they are giving him his lifetime achievement Oscar I hope they find a way to work these clips into the montage. He and McConaughey work pretty well together too, Matt said working with him was like “dancing with a great partner.” I’m guessing Pacino led.
This movie is for you if you’ve got no other plans. It will fade into obscurity rather quickly, but it will make money and I think the actors all wanted to work together so it can be considered a success overall. Ideally you’ll ignore all the problems and just focus on your boy Al. He won’t steer you wrong.