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Owning Mahowny [Import]

Philip Seymour Hoffman , Minnie Driver , Richard Kwietniowski    R (Restricted)   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 58.84
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Owning Mahowny [Import] + 25th Hour [Import] + Charlie Wilson's War (Widescreen)
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Philip Seymour Hoffman adds another great performance to his gallery of losers in Owning Mahowny, an engrossing, fact-based comedy-drama about the perils of compulsive gambling. The subject is hardly new to movies, but as Toronto bank-loan manager Dan Mahowny, Hoffman brings fresh depth and tortured humanity to his portrayal of a man who helplessly feeds his pathological need to gamble with millions in embezzled bank money that he can't afford to lose. His supportive wife (Minnie Driver, barely recognizable beneath a plain-looking wig and glasses) is aware of the problem but not its severity, and in fulfilling the promise of his debut feature Love and Death on Long Island, British director Richard Kwietniowski strikes a delicate balance of humor, adrenalin, and escalating tension, guiding Hoffman, Driver, and an excellent supporting cast (including Long Island's John Hurt) in a quietly suspenseful study of Mahowny's ill-fated impulse. Set in the early 1980s but timeless in its study of dysfunctional behavior, Owning Mahowny is a safe bet for film lovers everywhere. --Jeff Shannon

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fickle Lady Luck May 26 2004
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 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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars sad and haunting April 11 2004
"Some folks believe that everyone has a public life, a private life and a secret life."
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Movie and Hoffman is Brilliant Sept. 4 2006
By Kilgore
One of Phillip Seymour Hoffman's earlier movies. Based on a true story of a Canadian banker you steals millions to feed his gambling habit, a habit that is all consuming. Even when he ends up winning enough to pay back all he has stolen he can't stop and ends up losing it all again. This is not a well known movie but it is superbly done with both very dramatic and funny moments.
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I think that Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of the finest and most versatile actors around. And this 2003 film based on a true story certainly proves it. He's cast as Dan Mahowny, an unassuming bank employee in Toronto. Dan has a gambling problem - a big one. And when he is pressed to cover his losses of about $10,000 at the track, he uses his job as assistant manager at the bank to embezzle the money. Then, once he realizes how easy this is, he siphons off some more cash and heads down to Atlantic City. His habit escalates as does his crimes and soon he's carrying bankrolls of $500,000 or more and losing it all in frenzied weekends. His girlfriend, played by Minnie Driver is confused and tries to help him. The casino owner, played by John Hurt, gives him lots of perks and tries to separate him from more and more cash. Dan Mahowny's life becomes increasingly complicated and within a few months he has stolen $10.2 million from his bank.

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.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A rare find
This Philip Seymour Hoffman film was recommended by a friend and a great recommendation it was. A masterful performance by its star.
Published 5 months ago by Fiasco
5.0 out of 5 stars Gamblers story
Amazing how far a person can dive into the world of gambling addiction. Sad really. Excellent movie!
Published on Jan. 24 2010 by Amazon User
1.0 out of 5 stars Snake Eyes
A truly awful movie.
Other than a great performance by Hoffman - he relies more on his physical presence than on the script's ludicrous words to establish his character - this... Read more
Published on Feb. 7 2004 by F. W. Young
4.0 out of 5 stars "He wants to win so he has money to keep losing"
Set in Toronto, Canada during the early 1980's OWNING MAHOWNY is an engrossing and interesting character study of Dan Mahowny (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who embezzles money from his... Read more
Published on Jan. 18 2004 by S. Calhoun
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing Filmmaking
This is a perfect movie for people who love a good story with good characters and don't need to rely on CGI effects or gratuitous violence and sex to enjoy themselves. Read more
Published on Jan. 16 2004 by Donald Chewms
4.0 out of 5 stars Phil Hoffman is excellent as always
Philip Seymour Hoffman is truly one of the finest actors of this generation. I've been mesmerized by him ever since I saw him in the otherwise-dismal Twister (yes, Twister), where... Read more
Published on Dec 9 2003 by FairiesWearBoots8272
3.0 out of 5 stars Could Have been Great
Let me preface this by saying that I'd read "Stung" years ago and found it incredible.
I was very disappointed with the movie. Read more
Published on Dec 9 2003 by S. Sassoon
Focuses more on the financial aspect of the money laundering scheme Mr Mahowny was running than anything else, doesn't deal with the couple's relationship and/or Mr Mahowny's... Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2003 by Philip Bonn
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Portrait of a Gambler Straddling Two Worlds
Dan Mahowny (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a capable upwardly mobile assistant bank manager by day and a hard-core gambling addict every other hour of his life. Read more
Published on Oct. 17 2003 by mirasreviews
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