Two for the Money

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Here is how you get Al Pacino to appear in your movie. You call him on the phone and say, “In this movie, you will play a charismatic, larger-than-life half-crazy man who hollers and blusters a lot.” And Al Pacino will say, “I’m IN! Call my agent and DRAW UP THE F*#@$% PAPERS!!”

“Two for the Money” is completely forgettable except for Pacino, whose performance can be admired for being “interesting,” if not actually “good.” There are probably times, when you are one of the most gifted actors of your generation, when you recognize a script for the crap that it is and decide, rather than investing a lot of emotional effort into your role, to just cut loose and be a wacko. “Two for the Money” is one of those times.

Pacino plays Walter Abrams, a reformed gambler who runs a sports handicapping business where it behooves him to have someone on staff who can predict winners. He finds Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey), whose leg was hilariously broken in a college football game six years ago (while he was wearing an equally hilarious “six years ago” wig, I might add) and who can pick winners, both college and pro, almost flawlessly.

Walter has a noisy New York office full of “sellers,” aggressive, hormonal men who try to talk callers into betting Brandon’s picks and who remind me a lot of the frat-boy stock salesmen in “Boiler Room.” When Brandon is right, everyone’s happy. Luckily, he’s always right.

Everyone is cocky, including Toni (Rene Russo), Walter’s wife, but especially the men. Brandon and Walter speak confidently and bluntly, glib characters trying to attain alpha-male dominance in a glib movie. And Walter, with his random extravagance and constant testing of Brandon, reminds me a lot of Hank Scorpio, Homer’s new boss in that one “Simpsons” episode, who yelled at his shoes and carried sugar around in his pockets.

The conflict, of course, deals with Brandon getting too cocky and too wealthy, letting his predictions slip, and thus bringing ruin to everyone around him. The screenplay (by Dan Gilroy) takes no chances on our missing the point and gives Brandon such helpful dialogue as “Somewhere along the way I lost something” and “I gotta be Brandon again.”

Except for Walter’s unpredictability, it’s a pretty obvious movie, directed with TV melodrama impulses by D.J. Caruso (“Taking Lives”). It is the male equivalent of a chick flick, with bonding and fraternizing superimposed against (what else?) football, and it never finds a good way to go about it.

C+ (1 hr., 50 min.; R, abundant harsh profanity, a little partial nudity, some sexuality.)

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