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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Two for the Money
Two for the Money
Universal // R // January 17, 2006
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Scott Weinberg | posted January 12, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

Yet another permutation of Wall Street, The Firm, or The Devil's Advocate in which a starry-eyed young talent is wooed into a life of wealth and decadence, only to realize there's always something sick and twisted behind the scenes, Two for the Money is not about to win any originality awards. Simply remove the stockbroker/lawyer guise from those movies and jam the world of the "sports handicapper" into the equation, and you've got Two for the Money.

But one thing this flick has that the others do not is a man called Al Pacino. Scratch that, actually, because Pacino was in The Devil's Advocate, of course, which means the celebrated actor might be traveling over some familiar ground here ... but damn does the guy seem to be having a lot of fun doing it. Even if Two for the Money was a terrible film (which it isn't), it would still be worth renting just for Al's performance. Toss in some really strong work from co-stars Matthew McConaughey and Rene Russo, and some colorful supporting work from the great Jeremy Piven, the gorgeous Jaime King, and the enjoyably oily Armand Assante, and you've got an ensemble worth visiting with, plot or no plot.

But the plot is this: Brandon Lang (McConaughey) is a former athlete turned brilliant bet-picker Brandon Lang. Brandon's sports handicapping skills are so impressive that he earns the attention of betting wizard Walter Abrams (Pacino), who promptly brings our young hero to New York City and gives him a taste of the good life. Russo is Abrams' partner, Piven is his former golden boy, King is the new hottie in Lang's life, and Assante is a high-end gambler who doesn't take kindly to bad advice.

To their credit, director D.J. Caruso (he of the underrated The Salton Sea) and screenwriter Dan Gilroy seem well aware than an astute movie-watcher knows this set-up by now, so they take some pains to bring a few superficial surprises to the affair. (These moments, ironically, make the film a bit longer than it really needs to be.) But just like a new cover of an old song might be pretty darn catchy, even if it's not nearly as good as the original, Two for the Money is a fresh coat of paint on a tried and true narrative structure.

Two for the Money is about the allure of gambling, the pain of addiction, and the dangers of loyalty. It's also about two hours of Al Pacino at his most vibrantly garrulous and colorfully profane. His performance is only a few degrees shy of full bore scenery-chewing, but the veteran actor stomps through the movie like a small Italian Godzilla. Suffice to say that this isn't Pacino at his most subtle or sedate, but (I'll say it again) damn he's a lot of fun to watch here.

The DVD

Video: It's an anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer from Universal, which means you're getting some solid picture quality. (Well, for the newer flicks, anyway. Some of their catalog releases aren't so hot.)

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, in your choice of English or French. Audio quality is quite strong, although we're talking about a pretty dialogue-heavy flick with soundtrack tunes as the only real aural highlight. Optional subtitles are available in English, French, and Spanish.

Extras: First up is a full-length audio commentary with director Caruso and screenwriter Gilroy (who, incidentally, is married to Rene Russo, that lucky monkey) in which the guys share all sorts of production stories and background info on the world of professional sports handicapping. As we DVD critics often say ... if you dig the flick, it's a solid chat-track; if you don't dig the flick, don't even bother.

The Making of Two for the Money is a pretty energetic 11-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. Tons of movie clips and a few interesting interview segments with Caruso, Gilroy, Pacino, Piven, McConaughey, Russo, etc.

Insider Interview: The Real Brandon is a really entertaining 16-minute conversation between screenwriter Dan Gilroy and sports handicapper Brandon Link, who is basically the real version of the Matthew McConaughey character. Sports fans and aspiring screenwriters should find this piece particularly intriguing.

You'll also get eight deleted scenes with optional audio commentary from Caruso or Gilroy, seven TV spots, and the original theatrical trailer.

Final Thoughts

Two for the Money didn't make a big splash with the critics or the moviegoers during its theatrical release, but I'd call it the textbook definition of a "DVD find." While it might not be worthy of a 20-dollar night at the multiplex, it's a movie that feels right at home in a DVD player.

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