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Buy from Amazon

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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Two for the Money (2005)

Brandon Lang: Walter, that's pushing it too far.
Walter Abrams: Now, you listen to me. Now, you pay attention to me right now. There's no such thing as too far.

- Matthew McConaughey, Al Pacino

Review By: Nate Meyers  
Published: January 25, 2006

Stars: Al Pacino, Matthew McConaughey, Rene Russo
Other Stars: Armand Assante, Jeremy Piven, Jaime King, Kevin Chapman, Ralph Garman, Gedde Watanabe, Carly Pope, James Kirk, Denise Galik
Director: D.J. Caruso

Manufacturer: deluxe digital studios
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, a scene of sexuality, a violent act
Run Time: 02h:02m:33s
Release Date: January 17, 2006
UPC: 025192849527
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B-B+B B-

DVD Review

As the Super Bowl advertising blitz gets underway in the upcoming weeks there will be countless articles written about the players, coaches, and die-hard fans who've suffered decades of disappointment. But while the average person is waiting for the on field drama to unfold, there's a different playing field that sees action every second of every day of every year. Welcome to the world of illegal gambling, where a bookie's odds can consume your being and a hundred thousand dollars can be lost or won in a single afternoon. Like so many films before it, Two for the Money takes its audience into this world with a nice sense of style, but little in the way of substance.

Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey) is an up-and-coming quarterback, but his career is cut short by a broken leg and the chiseled athlete finds himself working as a telemarketer in Las Vegas. While pushing Jessica Simpson's latest cash cow, Lady Luck looks kindly on Brandon when he's given the opportunity to start a gambling hotline. Picking the winner 80-percent of the time, Brandon starts to earn some money and before long is offered a job by gambling guru Walter Abrams (Al Pacino). The fast-talking, slick New Yorker recruits Brandon into his gambling firm where a whole new world of possibilities opens up to Walter's naïve protégé. Caught up in his new persona as "John Anthony, the Million Dollar Man," Brandon is poised to inherit Walter's paradise.

Dan Gilroy's screenplay follows the what-goes-up-must-come-down formula to a T, but the actors are so charismatic that the rather predictable, superficial plot never spoils the fun. The interesting twist here is that when Brandon hits a cold streak, everyone else loses as a result. Director D.J. Caruso weaves a tale about men who profit from other people's addictions and, in truth, the portrayal of Brandon and Walter is not dissimilar to Oliver Stone's depiction of stockbrokers in Wall Street. The film is at its best when focusing on the relationship between Brandon and Walter: Brandon has a moral compass that conflicts with Walter's high-pressure style, which is only compounded when Walter's wife Toni (Rene Russo) becomes attracted to Brandon. Truthfully, I couldn't care less about the actual gambling scenes. There's a subplot concerning a wealthy tycoon (Armand Assante) that threatens death unless Brandon starts picking winners, but it is far less compelling than the human drama.

The movie doesn't end well, with a painfully drawn-out third act with obvious twists and turns. However, McConaughey and Pacino are absolutely electric. McConaughey brings great energy to his role, playing the salesman with tremendous self-assurance, but he also reveals surprising depth as an actor when Brandon's life turns sour. Pacino does him one better, chewing the scenery right from the get-go and turning in one of his most delicious offerings in years. A scene where Walter crashes a Gamblers Anonymous meeting provides Pacino with a golden opportunity to delight in his talent, and the man takes it for all it's worth.

Two for the Money is always watchable, but never delves intoits subject as far as I kept hoping it would. It plays well, but the script is torn between depicting the world of gambling and developing its characters. But if you're looking for good entertainment, this is a safe bet.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer has a nice filmlike look to it, though some interior scenes have a noticeable trace of grain. Otherwise, this is a clean picture with accurate skin tones, nice colors, and impressive black levels. Detail is impressive and there's a strong sense of depth to the image.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix is fairly timid, with only some minor sound separation and directionality occurring infrequently. Dialogue is always crisp and audible. The majority of the track plays front heavy, with the surround speakers being used primarily used to highlight the music. The rear channels don't make much of an impression, though, resulting in a front-heavy mix. A French Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also available.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
7 TV Spots/Teasers
8 Deleted Scenes
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by D.J. Caruso, Dan Gilroy
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:18m:13s

Extra Extras:
  1. Insider Interview: The Real Brandon—a video interview between screenwriter Dan Gilroy and real-life sports handicapper Brandon Link.
Extras Review: An audio commentary by director D.J. Caruso and screenwriter Dan Gilroy is too casual, creating a rather bland, pedantic track. Following that is a featurette, The Making of Two for the Money (11m:22s), containing interviews with the director, writer, and cast. This is little more than a fluff publicity piece, but it has some behind-the-scenes footage that makes it worth watching.

A more engaging piece comes along with Insider Interview: The Real Brandon (16m:16s). Gilroy interviews Brandon Link about his life as a sports handicapper, walking us through the true story that inspired the film. The story of how the two men came to know one another is a highlight. Things continue along with eight deleted scenes, each shown in nonanamorphic 2.35:1 video and still in rough form. They total about seven minutes, but there's no Play All feature for them. Caruso and Gilroy provide separate commentaries for each scene, explaining why they were wisely cut.

The supplemental material also includes the film's original theatrical trailer and seven TV spots. Everything is in nonanamorphic widescreen and Dolby Stereo 2.0. Considering Two for the Money didn't earn much at the box office, this is a good collection of extras, though nothing especially noteworthy.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Two for the Money is entertaining enough, especially thanks to Pacino's standout performance, but the film is a far cry from being great. Universal's DVD gives it a respectable home-theater life, with adequate extras and transfers.

 


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