Having already directed Val Kilmer in a psychedelic drug flick ( The Salton Sea), D.J. Caruso again steals a few moves from Oliver Stone’s playbook in Two for the Money, a primer on the sports-gambling industry that combines the broad outlines of Wall Street with the lead actor (and the football) of Any Given Sunday—all pitched at such high testosterone levels that one might think oddsmakers, and not athletes, were the ones abusing steroids. “All he does is work out and pick winners,” poobah Walter Abrams (Al Pacino) barks to wife Rene Russo about his new protégé, Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey). “I’m talking about fit. You should see him with his shirt off.”
Fond gazes and bare-chested exercise montages notwithstanding, screenwriter Dan Gilroy takes pains to lay out a father-son dynamic: Walter gives Brandon a new name (“Nothing’s wrong with Brandon. It’s just that he’s still living at home with his mommy!”), paternally instructs him to use the word fuck whenever possible (“It was all right for Chaucer 600 years ago!”), and outright says things like, “You need a new image of a man. How ’bout me?” Naturally, sonny repays dad with a colossal losing streak, going from 80 percent accuracy to a 2-12 record on the company’s biggest weekend. It’s here that Two for the Money turns from ludicrous to incoherent; key scenes (like the one where disgruntled client Armand Assante urinates on Brandon in the park) go unresolved. In keeping with his apparent ambition to play each character more berserk than the last, Pacino can’t discuss wine choice without sounding on the brink of aneurysm. But since his screen-hogging is the movie’s primary source of pulse, one is inclined to think that greed is good indeed.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 27, 2005