Two for the Money
"Two for the Money" starts with the ubiquitously annoying "inspired by a true story" gag, a Hollywood euphemism for one of the following:
1. A bum on the street told me that this all actually happened. No really, it happened.
2. Research is hard.
3. I'd get my ass off the couch and fact-check some stuff, but I might spill my drink.
Compounding the absurdity is that "inspired by a true story" usually indicates we're about to watch a tale of historical significance or an instance of immense personal courage, not a movie about degenerate gamblers.
"Two for the Money" is about Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey), a college football star who, after some bad breaks, ends up making his living broadcasting football wagering picks for a 1-900 service in Vegas. New York gambling guru Walter Abrams (Al Pacino) discovers him, brings him East and turns him into a prognostication sensation. Naturally, once Brandon gets hot, he gets cocky, gets reckless, gets laid, then gets a comeuppance that audiences should see coming not just from the beginning of the movie, but from even a passing glance at the poster in the theater lobby.
As Walter, meanwhile, Pacino seems to be channeling multiple past roles. One second he's Frank Slade from "Scent of a Woman", the next he's some mix of Michael Corleone and the coach from "Any Given Sunday." When he fakes a heart attack as a sort of pep-talk/life lesson for Brandon, Walter's seeming complexity devolves into a metaphysical joke.
During the mildly surprising ending, however, we learn what Walter's real problem is this: fear of intimacy. And in this head-scratcher we find "Two for the Money's" core problem: Director D.J. Caruso has no idea what kind of movie he's making. The beginning is about sports, gambling and power plays - in other words, a real guys' movie. The ending is like a snapshot from the Lifetime channel. This means that women won't bother to see it, and men are going to leave the theater confused about their own sexuality. It's like watching ESPN picture-in-picture with Oprah, or eating a heaping helping of steak-flavored nonfat yogurt. It just doesn't work.
"Two for the Money" is like that star quarterback who's driving his team down the field for the winning score until he's pancaked by some 350lb. defensive lineman who snaps one of his legs in half. As a viewer, you either turn away and wait for him to be carted off the field or revel in the carnage.
If you're betting on the box office for "Two for the Money," take the under.
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