Two for the Money's greatest strength is clearly its originality. Honestly, whoever thought to cast Al Pacino as an aging, cynical, battle-hardened mentor alongside a handsome, naive idealist is a fucking genius. Aside from Scent of a Woman, Donnie Brasco, The Devil's Advocate, Any Given Sunday and The Recruit, this character dynamic is completely uncharted territory for Hollywood.
Sarcasm aside, though, Two for the Money tells the well-worn story of Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey), a former star quarterback with daddy issues who finds himself in a dead-end job only six years after a devastating injury. His fortune quickly reverses after meeting Walter Abrams (Pacino), who offers Lang a job making the picks for his massive sports gambling business.
What follows is a contrived morality play about fast money and lost innocence. Abrams pulls Lang into the sordid heart of the illegal betting industry, now under the new persona of John Anthony. But is anyone out there still wondering if the dashing protagonist can drag himself out of this situation, somehow saving his own hide and quashing the forces that got him into this mess?
While McConaughey struggles to exhibit the range of his acting skills -- Lang morphs into Anthony simply by wearing nicer suits -- Al Pacino doesn't miss a beat with his performance, providing more quality one-liners than a month of Jay Leno reruns. Jeremy Piven (Ari Gold on HBO's Entourage) doesn't disappoint either, playing the jocular asshole audiences have come to know and love from him. Ultimately, Two for the Money doesn't provide any cinematic ingenuity or innovation, but a few nice performances could earn it a spot on next year's Netflix queue.