Directed by Richard Kwietniowski.
Written by Maurice Chauvet. Based on a book by Gary Stephen
Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver and John Hurt.
Release Year: 2003
Review Date: 7/2/03
Man, I know it is early in the year, but
Philip Seymour Hoffman NEEDS to get nominated for Best Actor for his
incredible performance in “Owning Mahowny.”
Losers are nothing new for Hoffman, but this
one sticks out because of the way he just seems to consume this
role. As $22,000-a-year Toronto bank manager Dan Mahowny, Hoffman
just chews it all up. The mannerisms, the walk, the aversion to eye
contact, the cheap suits that don’t fit, the denial of a gambling
man that just can’t get enough...it just felt like he turned INTO
this guy, and I was loving it.
Director Richard Kwietniowski does great
work with Hoffman, and he even does a great job of making co-star
Minnie Driver look like a total hag...not easy, kind of like the
work that Spike Jonze did with Cameron Diaz on
“Being John Malkovich.”
The plot, based on the true story of Mahowny’s rise-and-fall in the
early 80s, centers on the bank manager as he gets increasingly
desperate to keep up his gambling habit, first by borrowing money
from the bank posing as fake customers, then betting on simply any
sporting event that could be bet on, from horse racing to baseball
games to college sports to CFL games. His girlfriend Belinda
(Driver), a co-worker at the bank, becomes increasingly suspicious
of what Dan is doing with his spare time, which eventually runs into
trouble with Toronto authorities.
Although I would imagine the film was fairly
low-budget, the shots of Atlantic City, Las Vegas and downtown
Toronto look quite good. As I mentioned, the director does a great
job of making his stars look so common, and it helps to have folks
like Maury Chaykin and a bunch of no-names populating his cast. The
script is sprinkled with enough laughs to keep things moving when
the action is sparse, but the gambling seems to be top-notch and all
of the sequences with Mahowny blowing cash in the casinos hooked me
I liked this film a lot, but I didn’t love
it...even though, I am reaching for what I thought was wrong with
it. John Hurt co-stars as the head of one of the casinos Mahowny
frequents in Atlantic City, and his part is so over-the-top it
reminded me instantly of Al Pacino in “Heat”, maybe the most
overdone performance of the last 15 years. Hurt laughs at things
that are not even remotely funny, yells for no reason and gets angry
without any noticeable provocation. One senses that Hurt needed a
paycheck and this was the first role to turn up; I can’t fault him
for that, but take the work a bit more seriously, eh? “Owning
Mahowny” is also a bit slow at times, and early on, it struggles
whenever Mahowny is not seated in a casino whittling his cash away.
Otherwise, this is some good stuff. The
film has completed its run at film festivals and should be at your
local multiplex quite soon, if it isn’t there already.
Rating: $9.50 Show
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard