"A potentially tiresome tale elevated by a superlative performance."
It happens all the time: a so-so concept which focuses on a topic covered many times in earlier films manages to stand on its own two feet...but only because of one stellar actor who elevates the material beyond its familiar trappings. The topic is 'gambling addiction', the actor is Philip Seymour Hoffman, the movie is the fitfully entertaining "Owning Mahowny".Dan Mahowny is the very epitome of milquetoast. He's bland and ordinary and uninteresting in just about every way. Dan's a Canadian bank manager with a frumpy girlfriend, an uneventful social life, and a huge gambling addiction. And when one well-intentioned, yet desperately indebted, schlub has access to millions of dollars...well, you can guess where this thing's headed.
Based on the novel by Gary Stephen Ross, Owning Mahowny is the fact-based tale of Canada's largest bank fraud to date, and it's an effective cautionary tale about the quicksand-ish terror known as 'outrageous gambling debts'. Though much of the movie is fairly uneventful and even more than a little predictable, the narrative forges on smoothly - thanks mainly to Hoffman's superlative performance and a confident directorial approach by British director Richard Kwietniowski.
Supporting Hoffman is the ever-great John Hurt as a devilishly manipulative casino manger, Maury Chaykin as a bookie both malevolent and sorta friendly, and Minnie Driver (playing way against type) as Dan's mousy girlfriend Belinda. Each get a few isolated scenes in which to shine, but all are eclipsed by Hoffman and his increasingly intense performance.
Owning Mahowny might not be the most unique or vibrant movie about the criminally addicting world of high-stakes gambling, but given the fact that it's bound by a real-life backstory, some of the more familiar trappings can be forgiven.The flick's absolutely worth seeing for Hoffman's performance alone, but there's also enough Casino / Heist goodness to keep you entertained.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 CineVegas Film Festival. For more in the 2003 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 San Francisco Film Festival. For more in the 2003 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.