"Brandon Lane (Matthew McConaughey) is 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 (Al Pacino), the head of one of the biggest sports consulting operations in the country.." http://movies.yahoo.com
Two for the Money opens to a voice-over by Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey) showing us a memory from when he was a boy, having his dad throw baseballs to him as he tried to hit them with his Little League-type bat. He talks about how he knew sports were important to his dad, so he figured if he filled the house with trophies of his wins in sports, his Dad would stay around. He says he did fill the house with trophies and Dad left before his tenth birthday.
Fast forward to college. We see a championship game and Lang is playing quarterback. He narrates over this as well, telling us about how he wanted to win all the championships and set all the records--and he did. Now all he needs is to win this and his career in the NFL is set. Brandon runs the ball into the end zone on the final play, winning the game--and someone falls onto his right leg, twisting the lower half of it completely around. At first he felt pain, he says, and then he threw up. His dreams going down in flames, he asks the doctor how long the rehab will be; the doc says he doesn't know, but it's clear from the photos that rehab will just make the knee functional again--sports might be out of the question, but the doc is too kind to say this to him.
So Brandon Lang goes back home to Las Vegas, Nevada, working for the next six years until, as he says, "I woke up and I'd hit rock-bottom". Rock-bottom for him is doing voice-recording at 1-900 numbers for tapes such as Britney Spears hot-lines, etc. One day he gets a request to do this company's sports line because the normal guy was sick. His boss tells him that all he has to do is read the regular guy's picks for that week in football. Brandon disagrees with said picks, however, and picks his own--and goes 9 and 2 for that week.
Needless to say, Brandon gets the full time job doing sports for the company, since it's apparent he has a gift for picking winning football teams. Between these voice recordings--which pay very little--he is still trying out for every NFL team in the country. He gets a rejection letter from Chicago, saying the same thing that every other rejection letter he's received has said: Good player, don't know if the knee will hold up. He's tried out for every NFL team in the nation except two (and he doesn't specify which ones). He figures that if he doesn't get in the NFL, there is always the CFL. He works out a lot to keep himself in game shape and rides his bike all over Las Vegas, including getting to work. Brandon still lives at home with his Mom, who works two jobs, and his younger brother, who needs money to go to college.
Brandon rides his bike all the way to his cubicle one day to get a phone call from Walter Abrams (Al Pacino), who makes him an offer he can't refuse to come to New York and work for him picking college teams, since it's apparent to Abrams that Lang's got a gift. He instructs Lang to open his desk drawer, in which is some traveling money and a first-class ticket to New York to meet with him. Abrams tells him to write down how much he makes a week, then cross it out and write down what he should be making a week. Lang figures that this would be a terrific way to make money, particularly so that he can provide for his family. He flies to New York.
At the airport, Brandon is picked up by Milton (Gedde Watanabe), the chauffeur, who says he's been working for Abrams for two weeks, but "every day is an adventure with Walter". Brandon arrives to a converted brownstone in Brooklyn, where he meets Abrams, who is on the phone with someone from a circus. His daughter loves elephants, and she is turning six next week, and he wants an elephant from the circus to be there. The man on the other end seems unusually resistant to this. Abrams tells him to double, then triple the offered price. The man appears to balk, and Abrams says that it's always about money. His little girl is going to turn six, and he's pretty sure that will never happen again, so name a price and bring over the elephant. The man appear to give Abrams a tirade on parenting, which he comments on, then the man hangs up on him.
Abrams introduces himself to Brandon, asks his secretary to look up Ringling Brothers to find another elephant, then shows Lang the show he does on TV each week, then goes to explain that gambling is illegal in 49 of the 50 United States. What *he* does, however, is completely legal--he offers advice for a fee. Lang inquires how they make money if he asks people to call a number and technically give the advice for free. Abrams explains that if the advice is good, they will keep coming back--and paying for it. All of this is perfectly legal in the state of New York. Abrams discusses how, although no one wants to talk about it, sports gambling is a $200 billion dollar a year business, and Abrams just wants his cut. If he can offer great advice, then he should get paid for it--just like Lang should get paid for the advice he doles out. Lang notices that they are on the first floor and asks what's on the second floor. "That's where we print the money," Abrams says, completely deadpan.
Before he can start work, however, Lang must go have a manicure. This seems to be an odd request. We see Lang with cotton between his toes--he apparently also had a pedicure--and then we see the nail tech give way to Toni (Rene Russo), who finishes the nails. She asks some interesting questions of Brandon, who apparently just finds her completely interesting. She asks if he drinks (only occasionally), smokes (no), swears (not a lot at this point), or gambles (never). He then takes her hand into his and asks her for dinner. "He didn't tell you," Toni laments. She looks a bit hopeless. Lang is confused. "Walter and I are married," she tells him. This deflates Lang; she tells him that everyone has to come to get a manicure before Walter hires them because "anyone can bulls--- Walter, but no one can bulls--- me." "So this is my interview," Lang concludes. "How did I do?" Toni says that his answers were good, and except for one forward pass, he was perfect. This scene sets up much sexual tension between Lang and Toni for each of their subsequent scenes together.
Abrams shows Lang his living quarters, which appear to be in the same building as both Abrams' living suite and the offices of the business. He also tells him that he's going to need a new name: John Anthony. Lang's living quarters are lavish by most standards--a plasma TV that turns so it can be seen from either the bedroom or living quarters, a workout room, and an office where he can record his picks of the week. Abrams is looking for something very specific in the voice recordings, and although he can't explain or completely define it, there is an "it" he wants, and he throws out Lang's first (second, third, fourth, seventeenth) recordings by saying "I've already hung up" by listening to four seconds of the banter. Lang finally gets the recordings right, and continues to pick winners in the college games.
Somewhere right in here we learn that Walter has a heart problem, complete with emergency medication for it, and that he's been told to quit smoking--but he does it anyway, and in fact has an attack and follows it by lighting up.
An elephant comes walking down a bright and sunny street, guided by men in tuxedos. It's Julia's (Chrislyn Austin) birthday party. Abrams shouts up to Brandon from the street--how are they doing? Brandon, grinning, writes down numbers on a sheet, then puts it up to the window, giving a big thumbs up, unaware that what he wrote was upside down to Abrams--who thinks they are 0-9, instead of 6-0 so far. Brandon rights the paper, and Abrams heaves a sigh of relief, before talking with Toni about how Lang is gifted, and he could build an entire empire around him--and that he really likes the kid to boot. He mentions seeing Lang with his shirt off, etc., appearing to make an attempt at baiting Toni, who doesn't bite, and tells him to "get out of your head--it's a dangerous neighborhood" and to just enjoy his daughter's party.
Walter has a difficult time getting the "John Anthony" feeling from Brandon before making the next big leap (second floor), so he takes him to one of his Anonymous meetings--this one being "Gambler's Anonymous". We hear a man discuss how even though everyone is after him, he can't stop gambling. Walter makes a terrific, impassioned speech that the problem with gamblers--with everyone who has an addiction in some way--is that in the end, they don't want to win. They want to lose. That makes them lemons. And gambling isn't the problem--it's that feeling that if you don't lose it all, you are not truly alive. Someone recognizes Walter from his TV show, which then makes Walter say a memorable line: "Would you drive out an alcoholic bartender?" Just because he has a gambling problem does not mean he gambles or should make money on it. He tries to hand out his cards to people, telling them that if they "slip", they should call him. Brandon has to practically drag him out of there. Back on the street, Lang asks "What the f--- was that?"
Abrams says the whole thing was worth it, just for the swear word.
Abrams decides that it's time to introduce Brandon to the second floor, where he will be "selling"--getting people to bet big on the picks that he makes. This time, he may also be picking for the NFL--different from the college games he's been picking. Walter coaches him through the first phone call as "John Anthony" with Amir (Craig Veroni), telling him who to pick and why, with complete and utter confidence. With Abrams convinced, Brandon continues in "John Anthony" mode, making picks and encouraging people to bet big--Abrams' company makes 10% of whatever they win.
An interlude occurs somewhere in here, in which Toni and Walter take Brandon to dinner. There is some chitchat, in which there is a discussion about how neither Toni nor Walter can drink (there is a line about "if there's a meeting that ends in Anonymous, my husband goes to it"), but Brandon should enjoy his success with a $1000 bottle of wine. Not much of a drinker, Brandon tries to decline, mentioning that he's never had a $12 bottle of water, either, indicating the bottle in front of them. A lovely girl, Alexandria (Jaime King), catches Brandon's eye, which does not go unnoticed by Walter. Walter also notes that she's sitting with two behemoths of men who clearly are not worthy of her company. He then bets Brandon 10,000 to 1 (that is, he'll pay Brandon $10,000 if Brandon wins; but Brandon only pays Walter $1 if he loses) that he can't bag the girl. Walter then ups the ante by thoroughly ticking off Alexandria's dinner guests. Toni admonishes Walter, then tells him to pick up their check. "The voice of reason," Walter calls her, before Brandon goes off to intercept Alexandria as she returns from the bathroom. He tells her that he really likes her; she tells him that he just wants to get into her pants. He replies and says no, he wants to get into her mind, and her heart, and her soul, and he can't imagine her wearing pants in any of that. Brandon does take her home.
Abrams decides it's time to put "John Anthony" on his TV show. This is a big step, and Brandon should think about it, admonishes Toni. Once he goes forward with this, there is no more Brandon Lang. It's just "John Anthony", all of the time. Brandon gets a makeover--haircut from Toni, new (very nice) suits, and a car. At the Mercedes car dealership, "John Anthony" asks if he has any credit. "John" answers no. The dealer asks Abrams if "Anthony" can be trusted. Abrams replies that he would trust "Anthony" with his wife--naked. The dealer then tells "Anthony" that the floor is his. Brandon picks out a silver Mercedes 2-door (looks like a 560 SEL, but I could be wrong on that).
Abrams takes him into the studio to do the show and tells him there's nothing to it--read the TelePrompTer. There are other people from the second floor there as well--Chuck (Charles Carroll) and Jerry (Jeremy Piven). Jerry goes first, telling people that his computer-based picks program has what it takes to make winners out there. Chuck goes next, saying he's got the picks of the week. Brandon goes last, reading what's on the Prompter, but not being able to go ahead with it, calling him the "Million Dollar Man". At first, it looks like they are going to have to cut away from him, but then Brandon continues, saying simply that someone wrote terrific copy for him, but he has to go from his gut. His numbers speak for themselves--over 80% on the college games, every single week. If anyone wants to know what he knows, call that number at the bottom of the screen. It's as simple as that. Abrams loves it, and they do so well that Abrams is going ahead to let "John" pick NFL games.
Brandon finds out that Abrams has been holding back calls "on his behalf". He won't let his father speak to him. His family doesn't have another number for him, and his younger brother lets Brandon know that his Dad's been trying to reach him. This makes Brandon very unhappy, which allows for a terrific scene in which Abrams tells Brandon that everyone's life is messed up, and these days everyone has an unhappy childhood--live with it and move on.
Shortly thereafter, Brandon's Mom calls--and she is let through on the line. He's sending checks home to her. She actually complains that they are too much. She hears him use the "F" word and flips out. He tells her that this is how people talk where he is and it's just a way of fitting in. She doesn't necessarily buy it, does not understand why he has to be "John Anthony" and appears to dislike the Anthony persona. He has to put her on hold when Walter comes in, saying that they have to leave for Puerto Rico in 45 minutes. The biggest gambler in history has called and wants a personal, private meeting with "John". Brandon picks back up to tell his Mom that he has to go, but she is no longer on the line.
Brandon and Walter fly to Puerto Rico to meet with Mr. Novian (Armand Assante). In the airport, as Brandon tells Walter that he's going to go get into character, Walter pulls a fake heart attack, just to put Brandon on edge so that he'll bag Novian. He does.
Brandon's picks are unequaled the next couple of weeks.
He suddenly hits a cold streak--3 for 14, 2 and 12, and he wants out. Abrams won't let him out. Brandon is doing nothing but eating, drinking, and sleeping the job. We see one shot of him asleep with a mechanical pencil in his hand, his bed littered with literature on NFL games. Walter tries to reach him, and Brandon refuses to answer. Finally, a knock on the door--it's Toni. She tells him that he's got to get out, but Brandon believes he can put it back together. He just needs another week or so.
While on his bike, out in a park, Brandon is attacked by Mr. Novian and his associate. Mr. Novian has found out Brandon's real name, even spoken to his mother. He makes vague threats about Lang's family, and asks for Lang to apologize. When he doesn't like the apology, Novian urinates on him. (I kid you not.)
Brandon figures the problem is actually the persona--"John Anthony". He was doing fine as Brandon Lang. So he picks the ones he would pick that week--and bombs. This is particularly bad since Abrams is gambling again--banking everything after "John" went 14 for 14. He's taking out a loan from loan sharks and has three mortgages on the brownstone. Abrams tells him that he's going to go to Vegas, and then he will come back and they will have a "good meal". (Abrams talks frequently about a "good meal".)
Brandon is sitting in an upscale restaurant when Toni arrives. She says that Walter couldn't make it; he's still in Vegas. She then breaks down and says that Walter is gambling again. Brandon simply confirms this. They eat their meal, then arrive home in a taxi. Brandon is looking around everywhere, it seems, but for what no one knows. He then bends his mouth close to Toni's ear: "I'm going to kiss you now, and..." The rest cannot be heard. He does kiss her, and helps her into the house.
Cut to Walter, standing on a bridge, observing the scene.
The next day, and Walter is "back" from Vegas. He gives lavish gifts to Toni (for their anniversary) and Brandon (because he is part of the family). It's apparent that Walter, despite everything, really means that. He has already mentioned to Toni that when he expires from his heart trouble, he wants Brandon to take over everything. (Toni, for her part, would hear none of it.) Brandon tries to refuse the gift, saying it's too expensive. Walter tells him to take it and reassures him that this week is the Super Bowl; he can come back with a bang with the right pick.
Abrams is about to film his final show of the year. He is trying to find Brandon, who is not coming out of the bathroom and is surrounded with data and sheets in there. He's told he has two minutes, and vomits into the toilet. He decides to flip a coin and comes up with the pick: New York, one and a half, and less than 50 points total.
He comes out of the bathroom and gives the pick to Walter, who is on his phone with the bookie in Vegas. Tells him to push this all the way, even though Brandon tells him he got it by flipping a quarter. Then he goes on his show and tells everyone that he's so confident in "John Anthony" and his pick that he will COVER if their information is wrong. It is apparent that Walter is setting himself up for the big slide, that feeling of being alive--of losing everything. It is equally apparent that this feeling and his need for it never fully left him.
Cut to the big day. Everyone is booking and then the game starts. It does not look good: Kansas City is up by 14 after the first quarter. When New York does come back a bit in the second, Brandon tells him that they are still in it. He then goes to his apartment, packs, and leaves--with the only person seeing him being Toni. They do not say goodbye. By the time it looks like the game might swing their way, Walter realizes that Brandon is not around. He goes to Brandon's apartment and finds three things: the gift he gave Brandon, a letter, and Toni.
Walter tells Toni that he can't believe Lang left without saying goodbye. Toni says that she's sure it's all there in the letter. Walter hints that the reason that he left without saying goodbye would not be in the letter, because it's never been discussed. "You're not watching the game," she says. "This is the real game, right here," is his retort. He then accuses Toni of sleeping with Brandon.
"He was right," she says, her eyes wide. She accuses Walter of gambling with her--his one prize possession. "You offered me up on a platter."
"Well, you didn't have to climb on and shove an apple into your mouth!"
(Shots of Brandon getting out of his cab, walking through an airport.)
Walter says he never went to Vegas, that he saw them together, and she can't deny it.
Toni then tells him what *really* happened that night: Brandon told her he was certain that Walter was watching them, that Walter was gambling with Toni, and he wanted to lose, to have that feeling of being alive. So he kissed her on the steps, walked her up to the living quarters--then left by the backdoor back to his place. Toni had hoped that Brandon was wrong--and since Walter was so happy when he "came back" from Vegas she was sure Brandon was wrong. "You want to end up alone," she tells him.
(Shots of Brandon watching the game from the airport bar; the crew from the second floor watching a game-winning pass.)
"But I'm not going to let that happen, Walter," she tells him. "This is it. You, me and Julia. We're real. This is real." She reiterates that she won't let him live his life alone, and he collapses in her arms.
(New York wins, above the point spread and under the total number of points for the game.)
Brandon Lang, coaching a set of "Little League" aged kids whose helmets read "Giants". He tells them that the most important thing to do today is to have fun in the game. The kids want to win, and he knows that, but it's more important to have fun. The kids run off to the field--all but one.
"You really think we can win today, Coach?"
"Sure I do. I bet on it."
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