The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Two For the Money

A flop when it was released in theaters in 2005, Two for the Money has found itself a second chance on late night TV, or at least that's where I kept stumbling across it.  Finally just caved and rented it from Netflix having seen the first 30 minutes twice on TBS at two in the morning. Was it worth it? Nope, not especially.

Having suffered a possibly career-ending injury in a bowl game, quarterback Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey) has possibly hit it big helping bettors by picking scores of NCAA and NFL college scores. He's done so well in fact that he's been noticed by Walter Abraham (Al Pacino), the owner of one of the country's most successful sports gambling/counseling companies. Walter takes Brandon to New York to join his firm, and all he asks is that he keeps on doing what he does so freakishly well, picking winners and making money. Brandon does just that -- picking winners at an alarming rate -- but can his extraordinary luck hold out?

When I did stumble across this on late night TV, I didn't necessarily love it, but I was intrigued if nothing else. Having seen the entire movie now, I wasn't even intrigued by the end of this overlong, dull and predictable story from director D.J. Caruso. Nothing about it feels real. It feels forced from the beginning, even entirely fake at specific moments. Some of that stems from the "NFL teams" and the footage of games that looks like it's from the 1980s in Canada. But more than that, 'Money' reeks of style over substance. There's never really any question where it's going, but even the ride getting there isn't entertaining.

The showiest part in the movie goes to Al Pacino as Walter, a former gambler turned hugely successful consulting company owner. This movie continued a trend of parts like this that had Pacino playing a caricature of himself more than actually playing a part. This is a part that could and should have been pretty good, but it's so ridiculously over the top and showy that I never bought it. He screams, he mugs, he gets intense. Rene Russo plays his wife, Toni, a woman with similar past demons. Jeremy Piven has a good part as Jerry, one of Brandon's in-company rivals, Armand Assante sneers as Novian, one of the world's biggest sports gamblers, and Jaime King apparently got blackmailed into a part as a conquest of Brandon's.

What throws me depending on the role is McConaughey's continued success in movies. His aw-shucks demeanor and overly confident -- even arrogant -- ways works in movies like Sahara or We Are Marshall. But in a quasi-dramatic role like this, it just doesn't work for me. Brandon is supposed to be ultra-confident, and I bought into it, but by the end of the movie I just hated this character. Hated. McConaughey doesn't do a great job developing him, and his rise and inevitable fall can be predicted from the moment the movie starts. Mostly though, I just don't think much of him as a true dramatic actor. Going up against Pacino and his exaggerated style, his underplaying style does not go over well. Not a good mix at all.

By the time the ending nears, I thought I'd seen every stereotype possible. 'Money' deserves to be beaten with the cliche stick. The rise and fall, the possible relationship with Russo's Toni, the back and forth dynamic, it's all there. And then there's the one big game where everything that went wrong can be righted. Didn't see that one coming, did you? I'm somewhat surprised by how negative this review has gone because as I finished the movie I thought it was pretty average if nothing else. The more I thought about it, the more I disliked it though. Who knows what would have happened if I waited another day to write?

Two for the Money <---trailer (2005): */****

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