October 21 - 27, 2005 • Vol. 26 - No. 42

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Two for the Money—Let’s Face it,
Gambling is Always a Gamble

by The Blonde and The Maven
Film Columnists

Two for the Money starts out with quarterback Brandon Lang, played by MatthewMcConaughey (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Reign of Fire), pulling out all the stops to win his college football game. He succeeds, but gets his knee crushed and will not be finishing out the season. (Don’t ya just hate it when that happens?) Fast forward six years and Brandon is working for 1-900 numbers making recordings and has a knack for picking winners in college football. His 80 percent correction rate gets the attention of Walter Abrams, head of one of the biggest sports consulting operations in the country. Walter, played by Al Pacino (The Recruit and Any Given Sunday and a million other films) lures Brandon from his $10 an hour job into the lucrative business of handicapping football games for “high betters,” strictly legal of course, as Walters’ business doesn’t take bets directly. When you win, you pay them a percentage of your winnings to the firm. Walter grooms Brandon as his protégé. His new boy Brandon gets a complete makeover, starting with the outside (hair, wardrobe, new car) and coaches him on how to “sell certainty in an uncertain world.” Assisting Walter is his wife, Toni, played by Renee Russo (Ransom and The Thomas Crown Affair).
Along the way, Walter, who suffers from a heart condition, displays sudden fits of jealousy and shows how cruel he can be by humiliating Brandon just as he gets too comfortable. Also working for Walter is Jerry, portrayed by Jeremy Piven (Old School and Runaway Jury), who runs a computer program-based handicapping system. Jerry’s system now takes a back seat to Brandon’s picks for the games, creating some serious jealousy. Things get really serious and quite sticky when Brandon’s picks aren’t as on target as they once seemed to be. When some betters lose all they have, it makes you wonder if this business Walter and Brandon are in is more immoral than you first thought. While no one is forcing anyone to make a bet, they sure do make it sound more like a sure thing than a gamble.
The story is written by Dan Gilroy, who also wrote Chasers and Freejack. The director is D.J. Caruso, who directed Taking Lives and The Salton Sea.
Take the gamble for yourself and go make Two for the Money your next movie bet!
The Blonde: First of all, I am NOT a gambler. However, if I put 100 bucks down, I want to see a new pair of shoes! Two for the Money was like Casino meets Boiler Room meets Wall Street meets The Devil’s Advocate meets The Gambler meets Vegas and The Hustler, who all eventually meet the MOB! I enjoyed this film. I was sucked in from the get-go. I went in thinking, “Ho-hum, another sports film,” but Two for the Money was so much more than that. It was about relationships, greed, morals, principals, character or lackthereof and the disease of gambling. It was a film about style and charisma that all intertwine into a story of what life is really all about! (Besides shoes.) Nothin for nothin, it certainly WILL keep your interest for two hours! I love Renee, honestly! She is a superb, stunning actress, but Mav, doesn’t she look like she is aging too quickly? MEOW!
The Maven: No, I think she is aging beautifully! After all, she isn’t an ingénue anymore. I just think she needs a different hair stylist. Her hair started bothering me from the previews on.
The Blonde: I thought everything about this film was intelligent and well done, from the acting to the editing to the directing and filming to the pacing down to the storyline. Did you ever notice that Pacino always picks roles where his character has some MAJOR issues?  He is never the happy, go lucky chap! I wonder if that reflects his real life. Renee, on the other hand, is always portraying the likeable, kind, supportive, sexy, loyal, sweetheart.
The Maven: Is it me, or does Al Pacino seem to be having a lot of fun playing these over the top characters? As usual, he was great in this role. I didn’t like his character Walter very much, but I’m sure we weren’t supposed to. After all, anyone who goes to a gamblers anonymous meeting and leaves his business card which promotes sports gambling isn’t going to be a shoe-in for Nice Person of the Year. I must note that Walter never asks anyone to like him or expect it. I found it difficult to sit through this movie with so many of the characters making a living as they do. Renee’s character was also not clearly defined. She should have had more to do. It’s as though her good scenes may have ended up on the cutting room floor. As Walter’s wife, she screens his employees to protect him from undesirables, but Walter’s business is what is undesirable.
The Blonde: I can’t disagree with you more. Maybe the topic and characters were too deep for you?  I think you missed the core here.
The Maven:  Are you staying I was in the outfield when I should have been in the infield?
The Blonde: That is EXACTLY what I am saying!
The Maven: That’s baseball, Blonde, this film was about football!

Story continued on bottom

The Blonde: I know that, but there are green fields in both sports! Ya know, Matthew is quite handsome, with lovely hair, teeth and eyes, a drop-dead smile, a fine, chameleon actor who fits every role he plays, but honey…it is his body that is fitting of an Academy Award! When he is without his shirt on, is he perfect or what? I mean, really perfect! That said… we can move right along?
The Maven: NO! NO! Let’s keep talking about him! Those abs were VERY well defined, much more so than his character!
The Blonde: His character was well defined too! Now, THAT SAID, can we move right along?
The Maven: NO! NO! I haven’t started on his buns of steel yet!
The Blonde: My word Mav, what has come over you? And… I won’t even begin to touch that anymore! But…I am sure Matthew’s new main squeeze (Tom Cruise’s ex), Penelope Cruz, has Matthew well in hand!

The Maven: Now that said, I really think we should move right along! Matthew is a very competent actor. This role was good for him. His character was a likeable guy participating in an unlikable business. He became more remote as the story progressed. I didn’t know if I was supposed to root for him or not. When his picks started to go south, I was actually happy! I wanted him and all his co-workers to fail. When Armand Assante entered the story as a wealthy gambler, I thought, great! Now, some action! But his character never came into focus either and he seemed to drop from the movie. Too bad!
The Blonde: Ok Mav, but weren’t Matthew’s abs more than enough to get you through some of the films holes? Can’t you just be a bit shallow and go with the flow of the story? This is a film you shouldn’t analyze too much and just have some movie fun with it. This isn’t rocket science, just a fun film!
The Maven: It wasn’t a fun film!
The Maven: However, had Matthew taken his shirt off after being pummeled by Armand, I might have over looked the fact that Armand was dropped from the story.
The Blonde: He didn’t pummel Matthew! He beat the crap out of him.
The Maven: Sweet, dear, Blonde, do you even know what the word PUMMEL means?
The Blonde: YES! It has something to do with horseback riding!
The Maven: In Blonde-land, that would be close enough… even though… NOT!
The Blonde: Back to the film… Maven, what seemed to upset you so morally about this film? It is no different than a stock broker pushing a stock. Same exact thing! Why is this so unethical and distasteful to you? No one is forcing these gamblers to bet or listen to the advice.
The Maven: I think it compounds an already difficult to deal with addiction. They are being trained in selling a concept and it is high pressure sales. I don’t like it. I don’t like telemarketers either and I want to just put that out there, as well!
The Blonde: I agree, but the movies concept is NO different than the stock market or brokers. Are you closing all liquor stores down because of the already difficult to deal with alcohol addiction? You can say this about anything. No one pummels these gamblers to dial the number of this firm all on their own! However, it’s nice to be disagreeing with you again!
The Maven: Although Two for the Money has some great actors that do some great acting, the story itself of rise and then demise, stops short of making its point. In fact, there is NO point in seeing it. I rate it a C for couldn’t get me to see it again!
The Blonde: This film is exciting ‘til the last down. I rate Two for the Money a touchdown B. It isn’t a masterpiece, but it IS what we all go to the movies for, to be entertained! You will indeed be entertained and more! This film brings new meanings to the words winner and loser! For your movie snacks, go ahead and gamble on a box of chocolates! To quote Forrest Gump, “Ya never know what you’re gonna get!”  
P.S.: Some great movies to look for, coming this December, are The Ice Harvest and Syriana, starring George Clooney and Matt Damon!

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