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Cass' review of
Owning Mahowny


Owning Mahowny (2003)
Rated R; running time 104 minutes
Genre: Crime/Thriller/Drama
Written by: Maurice Chauvet (based on the novel by Gary Stephen Ross)
Directed by: Richard Kwietniowski
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver, Maury Chaykin, John Hurt, Sonja Smits, Ian Tracey, Roger Dunn, Jason Blicker, Chris Collins

Review Copyright Cassandra Henry, 2003

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"I don't have a gambling problem. I have a financial problem." -- Dan Mahowny

CASS' CLIP (WARNING: **spoilers below**)
Dan Mahowny (Philip Seymour Hoffman) makes a decent living as an assistant bank manager at a Toronto bank and his colleagues consider him a savvy banker. But at first glance, Dan looks like the perfect candidate to appear on the reality show "What Not to Wear" because his ill-fitted suits make him look fatter than he really is. Now if you combine that with Dan's beat-up jalopy and his sparsely furnished apartment, one starts to wonder what is he spending all his disposable income on. He's not spending it on his girlfriend, Belinda (Minnie Driver), because he always forgetting or canceling dates at the last minute. Belinda is so homely looking she's the type of woman who's just happy to have a boyfriend. Instead of kicking Dan to the curb for his tired-ass "I have to work late at the office tonite" excuses, Belinda repeatedly forgives him because she loves his unconditionally. All and all, Dan is a likeable guy.

Dan is hiding a big secret and his uncanny ability to lie convinces his employer and unsuspecting clients into believing he's an honest guy. What initiates as a $10,000 debt owed to Dan's bookie, Frank Perline (Maury Chaykin) quickly escalates into a financial problem and then into a gambling problem. Lurking underneath this seemingly hardworking nice guy is a man who single-handedly embezzles $10.2 million to support his insatiable gambling addiction.

Helping Dan feed his addiction is Victor Foss (John Hurt), one of Atlantic City's many sleazy casino managers. Foss has a knack for pick pocketing compulsive gamblers out of their small change, while at the same time making them feel like high rollers. All Foss has to do is sit back and watch Dan self-destruct right before his eyes.

Before long, every good addiction-type movie leads to an investigation. While investigating the goings on of other various criminal activities, the cops accidentally stumble on Dan Mahowny. Initially, they can't seem to link him to anything, and one of the investigators says, "If you move the letters around in Mahowny's last name, it spells "How many".

How many times does Dan have to hit rock bottom before he realizes the House always wins? How many times does Belinda have to hear Dan say, "I'm gonna make it up to you. I promise," before she realizes he doesn't keep his promises? How much money will Dan siphon off to feed his gambling compulsion before he is caught?

DA 411
Owning Mahowny is Maurice Chauvet's adaptation of Gary Stephen Ross' novel Stung: The Incredible Obsession of Brian Molony. Philip Seymour Hoffman immerses himself in his character, Dan Mahowny. While his character is in the throws of his addiction, Hoffman made me feel pity and pissed off at the same time. Also, seeing John Hurt slither into his Victor Foss character was enjoyable to watch. The only downside to Owning Mahowny is Minnie Driver's character, Belinda. I'll just chalk it up to her role being underwritten as opposed to bad acting. The overall tone of the movie, however, is enhanced by the great music and cinematography.

When I asked twenty-something Alexandra what she thought about Owning Mahowny, she said, "Philip Seymour Hoffman is excellent in this role. His body language just reeks LOSER. I also enjoyed the musical score because it added another element to Mahowny's down and out demeanor. If you want to see a good movie, I definitely recommend Owning Mahowny." [Thanks Alexandra!] Hoffman's characterization is both loveable and despicable, and you'll find yourself secretly rooting for him, just like all good enablers or co-dependents do.

I'm willing to bet that Philip Seymour Hoffman will be nominated for an Oscar because he owns this role as Dan Mahowny.

Owning Mahowny will take you on a downward spiral into the life of a compulsive gambler without you feeling like you lost your shirt, or the keys to your car.


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Copyright Cassandra Henry, 2003

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More 3BlackChicks™ review(s) for this week:
(movies reviewed 9/12/03):

Cass' reviews:
Owning Mahowny

The Diva's reviews:
Once Upon A Time In Mexico

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