Film Review *1/2: ‘Two’ Not Worth the Money of Admission
Sports Betting Movie Leaves Out Too Much Substance
By Yong-Yi Zhu
Directed by D.J. Caruso
Written by Dan Gilroy
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Al Pacino, Rene Russo
On the surface, “Two for the Money” is a drama about high stakes sports gambling and how one man lost everything but managed to get it all back again. The movie focuses on Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey) and the success of his weekly football picks. But looking deeper, the film is really about the growing relationships among Lang, Walter Abrams (Al Pacino), and Toni Morrow (Rene Russo).
Therein lies the problem with the film — there is no character development in a movie that absolutely requires it. Everything about the movie seems underdeveloped; each facet leaves unanswered questions.
Lang, a successful quarterback in college, severely damages his knee and must now survive by making weekly sporting game picks over a 1-900 number. Abrams, who runs a large sports betting service, invites Lang to join his business. Abrams then introduces Lang to his wife Morrow and the relationship among the three blossoms like that of a family. The skeletal story is great, but the ambiguous motives make the movie empty.
Though we learn about Lang’s fondness for Abrams, it’s unclear why he feels that way. Sure, Abrams brought Lang to New York and let Lang live the good life, but Abrams is so corrupt and so low he brings prostitutes into Lang’s life. The sleaze nearly drives Lang away from this crazy city, yet through it all, he still puts up with Abrams.
The movie also reveals Morrow’s dark past as a junkie and victim of child abuse. Yet the film never tells us how she left that life. Does all that past affect her now? To what degree? You may ask yourself these questions as you leave the theater.
The same mystery surrounds Abrams. He was a gambler; now, he preys on others’ gambling addictions. How does he live with that haunting past in his current profession? And what does he see himself doing with Lang? Everything about Abrams is nebulous.
Al Pacino always manages to be cast in the same role. He wants to develop a prot g and mentor someone into his mold (see “The Devil’s Advocate,” “The Recruit,” “Any Given Sunday,” etc.). Sure, Pacino’s good at this type of role, but he may be too comfortable in it. He pulls off great acting without ever alerting the audience there isn’t much content behind the character. We know, for example, that he wants to make Lang his successor, and we believe in his judgment wholeheartedly. Yet we never really understand how he sees this talent and why he has so much faith in it.
McConaughey also fits well into his character. His personality is less subtle; after all, his character is younger and supposedly more prone to emotional flares. McConaughey’s natural talent at being a nice guy is perfect for Brandon Lang: innocent, fun-loving, good-natured. In short, his performance is a joy to watch.
Despite good acting, the movie is still superficial. Perhaps we are only intended to catch a glimpse into the characters’ lives without fully understanding their thoughts and actions. This lack of development leaves the audience feeling cheated and empty, which makes the movie nice to look at but not so wonderful to think about.