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.