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.Read more ›
These are the opening words of "Owning Mahowny," a fascinating real-life tale of a compulsive gambler whose life falls to pieces when he begins embezzling funds from the bank where he works in order to feed his obsession. Dan Mahowny's "secret life" became public in the early 1980's when he was finally arrested and convicted on charges of bank theft. Philip Seymour Hoffman, who has made a career out of playing sad sack, tormented souls, gives one of his richest performances to date as Mahowny, a mild-mannered man caught in the grip of that compulsive sickness known as gambling addiction. Minnie Driver plays his devoted girlfriend who loves Dan dearly but who cannot bear to stand by and watch helplessly as he slowly but inexorably destroys his life.
If the film were only about Mahowny's gambling problem, it would be no different from countless TV movies made on the same subject. What sets this film apart is the way in which writer Maurice Chauvet (working off the original novel by Gary Stephen Ross) and director Richard Kwietniowski make the background of the story as compelling as the foreground. The astute, observant script focuses as much on the ins and outs of the casino and gambling worlds as it does on the personal travails of its main character. Particularly intriguing is the way in which high rollers are followed and coddled by the casino owners using both high tech equipment like cameras and monitors as well as plain old-fashioned flattery, obsequiousness and deceit.Read more ›
The story is paced so that it all seems possible. We see the gambler at his trade and way the habit takes hold of him. He plays all the casino games and, even when he might be ahead for a while, will always throw his winnings back on the tables. I found myself feeling sorry for the man and loving him at the same time. His performance comes across as so real and immediate that I just wanted to put my hands on his shoulders and shake him into reality. The sense of place is perfect too. The world of the casinos compared with the world of the quiet bank is an excellent contrast. Through it all he remains an unassuming nice guy and it's easy to see why his girlfriend is willing to stay with him. I really loved this simple story and feel it is one of the most excellent films ever made about compulsive gambling. Highly recommended.
I was very disappointed with the movie. Read more