Two for the Money D.J. Caruso

Al Pacino revisits familiar territory as an ailing gambling mogul guiding a rookie numbers picker up through the ranks of his sports betting empire. Both writer Dan Gilroy and director Caruso (The Salton Sea) demonstrate, through the DVD's various "making of" featurettes and commentaries, a keen interest in the film's subject, as well as a critical eye for what works about their story and what doesn't. Unfortunately, neither their sharp eyes for detail nor the film's star power (including Rene Russo and Matthew McConaughey) are able to notch up the suspense to the level of even its humblest peers — it's slightly worse than Rounders and much worse than Owning Mahoney. Most disappointing is how the story flinches from the darkest corners of its subject matter. Gamblers who lose it all are kept on the periphery in favour of a half-baked love triangle between the three principal characters. And just when it seems like all that pathos is going to start dumping on them Cruel Intentions-style, they all walk away happy and fit. Pacino monologuing at a Gambler's Anonymous meeting is one of the film's sharpest moments, and vintage Pacino. But it's an early peak and an unsatisfying look at what the movie might have been. The perspective is fresh — it's about sports book insiders, not gamblers — and real-life odds predictor Brandon Link (who appears in one of the extras) provides solid inspiration for the writer and good insight into the story. Despite all this, Two for the Money doesn't cover the spread and no amount of DVD extras or commentaries can do much about that. (Universal)