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on 6 March 2017
As described
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Like William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman might not fit the usual preconception of cinematic Leading Man. Yet, in 2003, both have the lead in movies about gambling or the gambling industry. For Macy, it was THE COOLER, for which he received a Best Actor Oscar nomination. For Hoffman, it was OWNING MAHOWNY. In their respective films, the character portrayed by each loses his job because he's either embraced or shunned by Lady Luck.
In OWNING MAHOWNY, based on a true story, Hoffman is cast in the title role as the high ranking executive in charge of loans for a Toronto bank. Mahowny also has a gambling addiction, and is indebted to his bookie (Maury Chakin) for slightly over ten grand. To cover his marker, Mahowny creates a fictional loan account, and draws cash from it. Going a step further, he approves cash loans to an existing but unsuspecting customer with a large credit limit, and takes the money on weekend trips to Atlantic City, where he consistently loses at dice, cards, and roulette. By the time he's found out, Mahowny has embezzled over $10 million.
The creators of this film made no attempt whatsoever to render the Mahowny persona attractive to the audience, and it's a wonder he even has a fiancee, Lisa (Minnie Driver). Indeed, Mahowny is so focused on gambling that when the casino manager, Mr. Foss (John Hurt), sends to his suite a complimentary courtesan, who sheds her fur coat to reveal not inconsiderable charms, Mahowny only tells her "You've made a mistake." And he really means it; he only courts Lady Luck. Our hero is so indifferent to anything other than playing the odds that he isn't even somebody with whom you'd consider having a friendly beer. He's single-minded to the point of boorishness.
One can't help but make the comparison between Foss and Shelly Kaplow, the manager of the Shangri-La Casino in THE COOLER. Alec Baldwin received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for the latter role, and should have been, I think, the rightful winner of the award. Both Foss and Kaplow are control freaks. But, while Foss is almost coldly clinical in his manipulation of the high rollers that keep his house profitable, Kaplow is a tempestuous character capable of deep emotions, including a volcanic anger that can erupt into shocking violence. Compared to Kaplow, Foss is almost prissy. Baldwin had the meatier and more complex role, though Hurt's performance is excellent.
Films about the sickness of obsessive gambling are few and far between. I haven't seen one as effective as OWNING MAHOWNY since the 1974 movie THE GAMBLER starring James Caan. Though OWNING MAHOWNY is perhaps an art house film not likely to appeal to a wide audience, it gets its message across superbly. Now, how do I tell the wife that I lost the kitchen remodel fund at the track?
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on 26 March 2013
PSH puts in a credible performance. His addicted gambler was believable and at times painful to watch in terms of the absolute denial of the addict. The gambling scenes are well shot and overall the director does a good job of slowly building the tension which accentuates the end of seat dynamic. Worth watching if you are a PSH fan and enjoy a jaunt into the mind of an addict.
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on 6 April 2016
Truly disappointing expose of Canadian mis-fit banker's gambling problem. We see him in the vortex, but never really understand what drives him or anything further about him. All the supports are pastiche and 2-dimensional. How could a subject like gambling, ingredients like a high-rolling casino backdrop and John Hurt as a wily casino owner result such a dull movie. We know little more by the end of the protagonist, than we did at the beginning.
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on 4 February 2008
..must be what drives the protagonist here, a bank exec from Toronto who only comes half alive when gambling. His losses start to require an unauthorized withdrawal or three, firstly when his local Mafia bookie slob leans on him for about $10K, then, after a trip to Atlantic City, for $100K and up. John Hurt plays the Atlantic City casino director, who tries to give the new high roller anything he desires (a fantastic suite, champagne, a sexy woman naked save for lingerie under her long fur coat...even a private jet) only to find that Mahowny wants nothing but to gamble, save for the odd "spare rib --no sauce-- and a Coca Cola". At one point this terminally boring man is actually UP by about $9 million and Hurt's Mafia boss warns him not to let him walk with it...Hurt has a plan to stop that, but it is never put into effect, because Mahowny loses the lot and his, I think it was, $5 million stake money from the bank. In the end he is arrested, long suffering girlfriend Minnie Driver sticks with him (puzzlingly, for he has less personality than a spare rib, no sauce) and after arrest and release he explains to a psychiatrist that gambling gives him 100% excitement whereas the most excitement he has from anything else is 20%. Pity they did not ask the girlfriend! I expect she would say she only got 2% excitement out of this character! Unfortunately the film is too faithful to its dull subject. Not something one would want to see more than once, but well done for what it is, anyway.
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on 22 April 2014
As always Philip Seymour Hoffmnan stole every scene ,I didn't realise that it was based on a true story ,thoroughly enjoyable .
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on 4 December 2014
Great movie, truly a forgotten classic. For those of us who miss the briljant actor Philip Seymour Hoffman....
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on 3 August 2012
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on 21 January 2015
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on 13 June 2016
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