Al Pacino is one of those actors who always seems to find himself in those type of roles that bring out the absolute best in him. In his last four films (Insomina, People I Know, Angels in America, and The Merchant of Venice) Pacino has brought the needed tension and power to his performances. Add 2005’s Two For The Money to that ever-growing list of excellent performances.
Pacino plays Walter who runs a sports betting hotline. Matthew McConaughey plays Brandon, the Vega… oddsmakers Walter brings to New York. Walter befriends Brandon and makes him a star by showing him how to act with an unleveled amount of confidence and exuberance. Rene Russo plays Toni, Walter’s wife.
What Walter does exactly is not your simple call and place your bet type of hotline. His office is also his home all partitioned into one big building. On the ground floor of the building, he has his cronies taking bets on hotline where would be winners pay $25 and get an early in on the weekend bets. The second floor contains all the big action. Take for example one of the common customs. For the absolute best advice, gamblers are expected to pay a certain percentage from their winnings. This is all so Walter is not necessarily breaking the law, but rather taking simply bets. Walter picks Brandon for one simple reason, his incredible accuracy. One weekend, Brandon correctly picked 12 out of 12 games. Brandon becomes Walter new boy via his new haircut, wardrobe and a big fast sports car.
Two For The Money is not really a film about the knowledge of the gambling business, but rather the intense emotions one goes through. Pacino, similar to his recent film The Merchant of Venice, gives these type of speeches where you wonder if Pacino gets so into his character that they seem directly from the emotion the heart is expelling. Walter explains to his fellow gamblers that gambling isn’t their problem in life. “We’re all lemons. We need to lose.” That moment where you lose everything in your life is when you are truly alive according to Walter.
Two For The Money succeeds on a high level mainly because of Pacino. While Russo and McConaughey are just fine in their functional roles, Pacino pours so much into all of his acting that he is, again, in that rare form for an actor to be in (pure excellence). It amazes me that at nearly 65, Pacino still continues to bring out the best in roles that would surely fail if an actor of his height where not in control of them.
Walter lives day by day, always putting everything he holds dear into whatever into the game. Not the game of poker I might add, but rather the game that is his everyday life. One item that stands out to me as a possible downfall of the film not being at the top of the mountain is an idea that is never explained. We never are told why Walter knows exactly what percentage to take from all the bets. I thought bookies aren’t suppose to reveal betting information? Besides this little fault, Two For The Money is a highly entertaining film that takes three actors and puts them in roles that invoke change in each of them in result of what the opposite character is doing. This is a great film!
Two For The Money is presented in anamorphic 2:35:1 image that has been enhanced for 16X9 Televisions. All noticeable colors, with the exception of black in some scenes where shadows are overly heavy, are bright and clear. Since this is a newer film, we expect the transfer to be exception, which is exactly what it is.
Since this is a Pacino film, we are given a dialogue heavy audio track, which results in little to no response from the surrounding speakers. The center speaker thought sounded great with every piece of dialogue coming off very clearly.
We are given a couple of decent feature here.
- Audio Commentary with director DJ Caruso and screenwriter Dan Gilroy: This commentary is nothing great. While both do bring along a host of production stories and information into the innards of the film, I found many instances where both would start to describe what was occurring on the screen as if I was blind all of a sudden. If it had not been for this occurring more than a few times, the commentary could have been really good.
- Making of Two For The Money: This making of is your usual making of featurette with tons of interviews with various cast members. We are given insight into the origin of the film, its story and characters, and a majority of the collaboration that took place on the set. Unfortunately, a majority of the comments by the actors are not terribly interesting or really valuable.
- Insider Interview:The Real Brandon: Now this is an excellent feature. We met the real Brandon Link via an interview. He discusses how he met Gilroy and pitched the project. He mentions how the film reflects his ideas of gambling and other reflections in his life. This is a really solid look into the film that was highly interesting and well worth a watch.
- Deleted Scenes: We are given eight Deleted Scenes. A majority of the scenes are extremely short, running less than two minutes. All the scenes are pretty interesting. We get to see Brandon’s football comeback and a funny alternate intro to Toni’s appearance. It is just terrible that there is no ‘Play All’ button since so many scenes are short. You can watch the scenes with or without commentary. We get to hear Carusos’ thoughts or Gilroys’ thoughts. Both tend to say the same thing giving us the basic reason as to why the seasons where removed, which was mostly for time issues.
- TV Spots/Trailers: Here get the Trailer for the film and seven TV Spots.
Two For The Money is another typical Pacino film that has excellent acting on all fronts and a pretty interesting story. The DVD boasts great picture and pretty good audio on both fronts. While some of the features are less than interesting, the Insider Interview was informative and should have lasted a little bit longer. I would recommend this film for all Pacino fans who are use to his acting. The rest of you will enjoy this film for an evening rental.
Special Features List
- Commentary by D.J. Caruso and Dan Gilroy
- The Making of Two For The Money
- Insider Interview: The Real Brandon Link
- Deleted Scenes (With Optional Commentary)
- Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots