Tale of Gambling Addiction (Review: Two For The Money)
"Two For The Money" is based on a 'true story' and is not your typical rise to riches, encouraging sports movie. There is sports in it (American Football) but the 'rise to riches' part is on a different aspect in sports aka gambling. The main character Brandon (Matthew McConaughey) does not gamble but he advises other gamblers what to choose, why to choose it so that they win and he, and the company he works for, gets a cut of the winnings.
It follows the story of Brandon whose American Football career gets cut before it even starts due to a massive leg injury. The effects on this injury was rather well-done since the twisting of his leg into an inhuman position looked nerve racking realistic. However, his twisted-up- like- a- spring leg does not decrease his love for American Football and he eventually ends up working for Walter (Al Pacino) as a gambling adviser. Brandon just so happens to be 80 percent correct in his picks, not because of magic but research and knowing the teams... and luck.
The plot follows his rise as John Anthony (since Brandon Lang was a bad name according to Walter)- him becomes completely different (of course)- a fall - a fix up- doing what he loves away from the spot light. A bit of a standard structure but there is a slight twist that I did not expect since everything else become quite formulaic. This slight twist made me happy since it kept true to the character of Toni (Rene Russo) and showed another aspect of the addiction to gambling.
The acting was quite good with McConaughey) giving a believable performance as the small-ish town, country boy trying to keep turn to himself but giving into the big city, as one does when success and fame comes along. He does become unlikable when he gets his ego and the ending was meant to make him seem as if he has gone back to his small town ways but it still eeks me. I think my issue is that Walter made him a 'golden boy of saintshood' from the get go (even making him the star of his TV show) to the point that he choose him over someone who worked in the company for years and only recently had a bad weekend while Brandon/ John had bad few weeks. It was as if everything was handed to Brandon/ John to quickly and easily to the point that he got his own office straight away so was still 'other' in the company.
McConaughey did well but in comparison to his recent work he could have done better, it was safe but he did facial distinguished between John and Brandon so that could have shown then, what we see now- a tiny, tiny, tiny bit. I am glad he has branched away from the pretty, built boy trope. From what I remember he performed the character as someone who talks a lot to advice his clients (he has too) but he doesn't really say anything that would make you go for it. He mostly repeats himself. There is little charm and words are not his friend. Maybe if it was written from the point of view of the person on the other side of the phone who cannot see who they are talking to it would have been written and performed better.
Anyway, Pacino was a pleasant character who held the room whenever he was there. When we first met Walter he is the friendly boss who greets everyone and jokes around and all as if it is a bro club. However, there is a part in the celebration party after his company makes a big win where Walter switches and becomes a lot more intimidating and on the verge of threatening. But he does this in such as a way as too not draw an attention to him but to keep it between Brandon/ John, the audience and himself. This part was really good and showed why Pacino is Pacino. We find out that he has an addiction to gambling but for the opposite reason of winning.
My personal favourite was Toni since she was a well developed (as they all are) character with a whole story before we meet her. Her and Walter are married and they have a long history where they must have helped each other with their addictions, family history and all that rubbish where they are two peas getting out of their pod. Their relationship, now, is solid and Russo lets Toni show a lot of love, admiration and pride to Walter which is good to see. She also puts him in his places as soon as she disrespects her and Walter accepts knowing he was in the wrong. A pleasure to see on screen.
The camera work was standard but was done well in bring excitement to people watching sports. There was a good use of long shots and close ups to show tension, plus you got why everyone was watching the game since their jobs literally depend on it. The music score was there, not too remember-able but I guess it worked.
What was interesting is the underlying theme of addiction not only in gambling and winning but chasing the high even if you make yourself lose. John/ Brandon does not traditionally gamble but he does since he uprooted from the place he knew to one he didn't because there was a letter in his draw. He made a bet (took a gamble) with Walter for a lady which you think he won but he actually didn't. And John/ Brandon actually gambles with other people's money and when he was failing we saw the consequence of that. However, he was getting blamed a lot. He did make the wrong choice but his client did not have to listen to him in the first place. I guess because he had a way with words it was easy to believe him so they did. Moral of the story, trust your gut and not the words of another, regardless how loud and good they sound.
The take a way is that this is a movie (which to me is more of a drama than anything) that has a different take to other sports movies, and well performed, defined, interesting characters. The ending with Toni and Walter was sweet and showed development but also gives an idea that this is a theme. While the ending with Brandon was a 'Hollywood happy ending' minus the girl. Other than the characters being enjoyable to me (except Brandon/ John-not a big fan of 'golden boys') the plot is what you would expect. But it was fun and check it out if you are into gambling (not so much sports).
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