Two for the Money

There's a lot of flash in Two for the Money, but it's all there to hide a big secret: underneath the loudness is a whole lot of emptiness. Nothing. Two for the Money is dreadfully dull, despite every attempt by D.J. Caruso, Dan Gilroy, Al Pacino, Matthew McConaughey, and Rene Russo. The premise is interesting; a peek into the world of high stakes sports gambling. This is a shadowy world responsible for the movement of millions of dollars, yet not regulated by the government and ignored by the various sports leagues. At the top of this world is Walter Abrams (Pacino, The Merchant of Venice, The Recruit), doing his best to ham it up, as is his standard modus operandi these days.

Abrams runs 900 numbers and a television show where he dispenses the odds for any professional game that may be playing. He receives revenue from the calls, and a steady stream of revenue from gamblers who try to play the odds. Abrams is savvy, and out to do whatever he can to increase his money. So he recruits Brandon Lang (McConaughey, Sahara, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) from a small company. Lang once played college football before a career-ending injury. His angle is that he knows the game, the teams, and the players intimately. His insanely high winning percentage reflects this. Abrams brings Lang into the big time, wowing him an office, new clothes, and a 'cool' name - John Anthony.

Part of Two for the Money is Lang/Anthony's rise through Abrams' ranks. He consistently picks winning teams and incurs the wrath and jealousy of his co-workers. Lang the everyman begins to disappear into Anthony, the smooth-talking businessman. Any sense of humanity and joy Lang had for his job disappears into isolation and greed. His only concern is bilking customer out of more money. The inevitable losing streak comes, and it's more than he can handle. Pacino's character is a jerk, and McConaughey slowly turns into one, so director Caruso (Taking Lives, The Salton Sea) wants people to root for Lang to return to his roots. But the characters are not dimensional enough for audiences to care about.

Oh, and Russo (Big Trouble, Showtime) plays Abrams' wife Toni. Other than that, there really is no point for her to be in the movie. There are plenty of shots of Pacino shouting and growling. For McConaughey, Two for the Money begins with shots of him looking like a normal guy, then it switches to power ties and he even goes shirtless. And he yells a lot too. They both yell at each other and at everybody else. Like Lord of War, there is a lot of interesting information in Gilroy's (Chasers, Freejack), but a movie needs more than data to be interesting. This falls to the wayside as the thin story kicks into gear. Lang and Abrams begin playing mind games with each other, each one trying to gain some sort of advantage on the other. There's a lot going on, which makes the fact that the movie is dull all the more surprising.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
2 hours, 2 minutes, Rated R for pervasive language, a scene of sexuality, and a violent act.

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