As the movie started and the words “based on a true story” displayed across the screen I knew I was in for more than what I had originally bargained for. A scene in the previews for the movie had really interested me from the moment I first saw it. Al Pacino grabs McConaughey by the back of the neck and whispers into his ear something like “If you want something from me you are going to have to earn it, and then rip it from my cold dead hands.”
I love Al Pacino; while he is not one of my all time favorite actors I have enjoyed all the movies that I have seen him in. He personifies a strong character better than other people that might have a more commanding presence. One of the interesting aspects of his character in this movie is that it also had a vulnerable side to it, something I don’t remember as clearly from his other portrayals. While there was the physical weakness that his character had, his emotional one was a lot deeper and damaging.
The movie started delivering from its first scene. The emotional set up of a kid trying to please his father at all cost really paved the way for the movie and made it believable. It was something that was very necessary not only because of what the based on a true story means but also because the perseverance that the character showed was outstanding, if not foolish at times. Brandon really wanted to pursue his dream of becoming a professional athlete at all cost, and until faith stepped it he seemed to want to be stuck in a dead end where a single track mind was keeping him back from greatness at maybe other careers.
Rene Russo played Al Pacino’s wife flawlessly. A complex character from difficult beginning that was everything that Al Pacino’s character needed to balance him. Several scenes in the movie really show how behind every great man, there is always a great woman. Her delivery was not only believable but showed commitment to the character. Her character built the bridge that the very polar characters portrayed by Pacino and McConaughey needed. Also worthy of mention is Jeremy Piven who’s fast talking character really helps build some great scenes in the movie.
The movie was already earning four stars, but then Al Pacino delivered a speech in an AA style addiction meeting for gamblers that truly put the whole movie into a different perspective for me. Pacino told the other addicts that their addiction to gambling had nothing to do with winning, but with losing. They were al lemons, damaged human beings that needed the reassurance of losing to feel like they were still alive. From that moment forward I watched as his character continually gambled with his own life. That cemented the four stars and a full recommendation to go rent or buy the DVD today. You will love this movie.
As if this movie needed any other reason to be cooler, the person the movie was based on is actually from Midland, Michigan. I had to rewind the special features like 5 times before I convinced myself that he was saying, Midland, Michigan. His name is Brandon Lang and he actually has his own website. He also has some cool words to say about McConaughey
One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received in my life came from Matthew, who said “Thank you for bringing me a character where I had to dig down and draw on the emotions that every actor dreams about. This was by far my most enjoyable role.” You can’t beat that. A kid from Midland, Michigan getting complimented by a major Hollywood actor. Talk about dreams coming true!