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Published: Friday, 10/7/2005

Movie review: Two for the Money *


Two for the Money tells a story I can't imagine you'd be interested in, and I barely know you. I can't imagine this because No. 1, this story's been told trillions of times before with some of these same people, and No. 2, it involves Al Pacino giving the cast and crew a free shower. The man spits when he talks. This is not exactly a revelation but I am starting to see meaning in it.

A transference of power?

Pacino, remember, got his breakthrough as Michael Corleone in The Godfather. He played a young man susceptible to the corrupting influence of an older man. These days, at times without variation, he plays an older man who corrupts or destroys the lives of youngish actors: He's ruined or corrupted lives in Angels in America, City Hall, The Devil's Advocate, The Recruit, Donnie Brasco, Insomnia, and Gigli. In Two for the Money, he seduces Matthew McConaughey, who plays a football player with a talent for betting.

He's 80 percent successful.

(The character, not Matt.)

The details of the story might be slightly fresh - Pacino's protege, modeled in his own image, goes on a losing streak during an extra-hectic weekend, experiencing the lows of the sports-gambling industry - but I think you can picture the rest in your mind's eye. Do it now: a cobalt-steel look courtesy of Wall Street,

a ramped-up frenetic pace, a con game - your image is right. Director D.J. Caruso (Taking Lives) takes things from highly improbable to, around the midway point, incomprehensible, then borderline entertaining - but not intentionally.

McConaughey, photographed to an absurd degree working out in slow-motion (which compliments a strong, unresolved homoerotic vibe with Pacino's character), is so inert he barely registers. Subplots hit dead ends and remain unexplained. Dark

themes grow softer. Rene Russo is wasted again. And still, I had an epiphany during Two for the Money, or perhaps it was an aneurysm: Al Pacino, years ago, decided to stop acting and begin an until-now unnoticed career in performance art. Rather than mock, let us pay Al some thanks:

Without Al being Al - without him spraying it, not saying it - many of the pictures listed above would not have even had a heartbeat. Goateed and raspy as ever, he luxuriates in terrible

directing and swallows McConaughey alive, as he has done to entire casts.

Though to be fair, Two for the Money gives McConaughey a sniff of danger without ever putting his mortal soul at risk. And it gives Al a heart condition, which might in his perversely hammy, latter-day way be a cry for help.

If so, too bad. Loud Al is way more fun than Funny DeNiro.

Contact Christopher Borrelli at: cborrelli@theblade.com

or 419-724-6117.

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