Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Two for the Money

MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, a scene of sexuality and a violent act

Reviewed by: Ed Cox

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Drama, Thriller, Comedy
Year of Release:
Featuring: Al Pacino, Matthew McConaughey, Rene Russo, Armand Assante, Jeremy Piven
Director: D.J. Caruso
Producer: James G. Robinson, Dan Gilroy, Rene Russo
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Universal Pictures

Should Christians be involved with lotteries or other forms of gambling? Answer

Smoking, gambling, etc.—How can I decide whether a particular activity is wrong? Answer

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Two For the Money” is a drama of high stakes set in the adrenalized world of wheeler-dealers whose fortunes are won and lost betting on sports. Matthew McConaughey stars as Brandon Lane, a former college football star whose uncanny ability to predict the outcome of a game introduces him to an unexpected new career when his gridiron glory is sidelined by a crushing injury.

Brandon’s talent makes him a prime candidate for recruitment by Walter Abraham (Oscar®-winner Al Pacino), the head of one of the biggest sports consulting operations in the country. Walter hires the small town ex-athlete and grooms him into a shrewd front man. Brandon soon begins to enjoy his status as a Manhattan golden boy and finds himself growing comfortable with Walter’s high-rolling lifestyle.

The surrogate father/surrogate son relationship fattens Walter’s business and personal accounts… until Brandon’s golden touch begins to falter at the same time that Walter’s manipulation of his protégé crosses the line.

With millions of dollars on the line, Brandon and Walter engage in a deadly game of con versus con, each one trying to maintain the upper hand while everyone in their world, including Walter’s wife, Toni (Rene Russo), are drawn into the escalating duel-where ultimately everything isn’t what it appears to be.”


“Two for the Money” is a bit of a Cinderella meets Wall Street in its story line, except that this rendition leaves you very sad. The characters spend the entire movie using each other and in the process losing themselves. Each has the potential for redeeming qualities, but chose to pursue the trappings of the world in an effort to get more rather than be better. Don’t look for this movie to leave you humming a tune or have an upbeat attitude about life; rather it can cause introspection about the fallen nature of man with very little effort.

Matthew McConaughey tried hard to shine as the innocent Midwestern all-American boy as the man who “has a crystal ball”; however his effort seems a little forced, with much of his character development involving torso shots of him working out. His character’s transformation in the film from low to high to low seems a little like driving on a smooth road—you’re never quite sure if it’s the road or the car’s suspension that is giving you the smooth ride.

Al Pacino gives another Pacino performance, along the lines of his entire career. If there is an actor that spends more time carefully choosing his roles in Hollywood, I can’t think of the name. It would seem that this script tried really hard to appeal to his talents, giving him some fodder to work with, but leaving him short of a complete meal of lines to engage.

This movie is very offensive to the Christian heart, ears and eyes. A sweaty out-of-wedlock scene, enough Fs to flunk the city of Los Angeles and about every other four letter word gets at least an honorable mention. While Matthew McConaughey’s character says he believes in God, you can be sure after this movie that this belief gains no more merit than Satan’s belief in God. Couple this with the implied adultery, treacherous behavior, the sunken premise of gambling and the scores of ruined lives briefly chronicled in the film should leave you panting for higher moral ground.

Each in the circle of main characters has some reason to believe that they have been dealt a bad hand at life—drunken father, abusive father, and incestuous father, one each. All of the characters talk about either holding on to make sure they don’t fall, or push back at life until you die. Never is there realization that the path chosen is pure self-destructive behavior. Al Pacino as Walter Abraham delivers a stirring explanation of what is wrong with those in the room, but in fact what he is describing (and never realizes) is that he is accurately describing himself. Were he able to have this kind of insight, well, the film would have had some redeeming value.

Every character needs the saving Grace of Jesus, but none are looking or even perceive the need for something better, higher, safer. Questions of “how do you live with yourself” don’t even cause the characters to flinch; even when Matthew McConaughey’s character realizes that his mother has hung up on him it only seems to bother for the moment. If ever there were a movie that detailed the fallen nature of man, this is it. It displays with perfect clarity how incapable we are of doing anything right (there is none righteous among us, no not one). The sin most ably demonstrated is not the sin of violence, but the sin of the heart.

Obviously, the subject of this movie is not a curriculum for a Sunday School class. But it definitely is one that outlines a goodly segment of society that our churches should focus upon. If you life in an area that has a casino, you know that your billboards and yellow pages are filled with two types of messages—those to encourage gambling and those offering to help gamblers stop. This film concentrates not on the game, but the human end of the gaming. The Scriptures advise against playing games of chance, and this movie is a 90 minute documentary on the clarity of that admonition.

It is always wonderment—a strong cast, good script, engaging story line and yet there is all of this tinder and no flash. Two for the Money as theater is at best a grade of B, definitely not worth the cesspool that need be wadded through in order to get a nugget or two.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Year of Release—2005 / USA release: October 7, 2005 (wide).

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Negative—Decent filmmaking and good acting, although sometimes Matthew McConaughey is getting by on his pretty smile. Objectionable moral content includes more “F” bombs than could be counted (though Al Pacino’s character probably would use that language and would use it that often). When Pacino’s character is looking for the most powerful of curse words he digs deep and comes up with Jesus Christ (he may have said Jesus “F’ing” Christ, but I can’t remember—it’s been 2 or 3 weeks since I saw it at a screening).

The film also contains a sex scene with nudity. Because the protagonist is a gambler I found it hard to root for the guy because of his chosen field; you don’t want to root for a guy to win at gambling because it will only further the one thing that causes the biggest problem in his life. The film attempts to look at the relationship between McConaughey’s character and his father, but it falls terribly short of revealing anything intrensic.

On the other hand the film does a great job of presenting a triangle relationship between the characters played by McConaughey, Pacino and Rene Russo (Pacino’s wife). Pacino suspects his wife is involved with McConaughey and when he tests her it sets up the climax of the film and does a great job at showing what a broken man Pacino’s character is.

I wouldn’t recommend this film to a Christian audience because of the objectionable sex scene and the ridiculous use of the “F” word. As for those not concerned with moral content I would say the film isn’t worth 9 bucks at the box office, but might be worth a rental when it comes out on DVD. Pacino does a great job with the character he plays.
My Ratings: Offensive / 3½
—John Howard, age 40
Movie Critics
…2 out of 5 stars… The movie makes a bet that the filmmakers can’t cover.
—Orlando Sentinel, Roger Moore
…Two for the Money is not about the mechanics of this business, but about its emotions…
—Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert
…a compelling drama, if only a little hollow…
—Chicago Tribune, Robert K. Elder
…a muddled melodrama… A bad imitation of David Mamet.
—The Hollywood Reporter, Kirk Honeycutt
…if you’re looking for a movie for a boys’ night out, it’s a winner…
—New York Daily News, Jack Mathews