Richard W. (rewfilmmaker) from NAPLES, FL Reviewed on 8/19/2013...
This movie kept us riveted to the chair. It's the most serious case of gambling addiction you can imagine and it's all based on a true story. You'll just sit there amazed at how the guy finesses himself out of tight situations. He guy drives an old car, wears old clothes and steals hundreds of thousands of dollars from the bank where he works. He doesn't spend it, he gambles it. He lies to everybody but since no one knows he's an addict they don't suspect anything. Just when it looks like the whole thing is going to come crashing down on him he has an amazing run at the tables. Based on what he does at that moment judge for yourself just how deep the addiction runs. Remarkably, the movie has a happy ending though. John Hurt plays the sniveling casino manager doing everything he can to separate the whale gamblers from their money. Minnie Driver plays the mousy girlfriend who's attracted to the guy for some incomprehensible reason. No formulaic plot in this one. If you're an adventurous video enthusiast you'll love this.
Mamie H. (towncar1997) from TAHLEQUAH, OK Reviewed on 4/27/2010...
Phillip Hoffman is such an unassuming person that there is just No way you could even imagine him having such an out of control gambling habit. He tries hard to keep his secret of where he gets the money to gamble with. Great True Story!
2 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Fascinating Portrait of a Gambler Straddling Two Worlds
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 10/17/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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. He'll place bets on anything, even teams he's never heard of in sports he doesn't know. When his debts to a local bookie threaten to shut down his credit line, Dan turns to the obvious source of funds: the bank. He forges business loan applications, borrows on his clients' credit lines, and strings it along by covering the activity on those accounts with bearer bonds drawn on false accounts. This shell game provides Dan with enough cash to win and lose very high stakes at casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. But it's only a matter of time before phantom clients, overdrawn accounts, and missing money catch up with him."Owning Mahowny" is based on a book called "No Limit" (or alternatively, "Stung") written by Gary Ross about Canada's notorious gambling man, Brian Molony. Brian Molony served 6 years in prison for fraud after he used his position as assistant manager in a Toronto bank to defraud the bank of $10 million in order to fund his gambling addiction, between 1980 and 1982. This true story has been admirably adapted for the screen. The details of Mahowny's financial slight-of-hand could easily bog the narrative down. But the film concentrates on creating a compelling character study of a smart man who stupidly and compulsively gambles for its own sake without even regard for winning or losing. Director Richard Kwietniowski effectively uses images to contrast the subcultures of the bank and the casino and to make them seem like self-contained worlds which both revolve around money, in spite of their considerable differences. Without being told, we get a strong impression that banks run strictly according to the clock, whereas time doesn't exist in casinos. Cinematographer Oliver Curtis impresses by giving the edges of his images so much attention. I was struck by how well he uses the entire frame to communicate. Philip Seymour Hoffman gives another fine performance, which will probably prove to be one of the year's best. Minnie Driver and John Hurt are also memorable as Dan's girlfriend and the manager of an Atlantic City casino, respectively. Insight into competition between Atlantic City and Las Vegas casinos is a detail which I particularly enjoyed, and, true to form, it is revealed through the emotions of the characters. "Owning Mahowny" is one of the best films I've seen in 2003. Every scene, every shot, and every piece of dialogue are perfectly chosen and executed. And it manages to create suspense even though it's obvious from the beginning how the story will end. Highly recommended. The DVD doesn't have any bonus features."
Sad and haunting
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 04/12/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
""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. John Hurt, in a brilliant performance, plays a smarmy casino operator in Atlantic City who will stop at nothing to make Mahowny feel at home in his establishment - all for the purpose of having his new found "friend" gamble away a fortune at his tables, of course. The film is, in fact, filled with interesting side characters, including a sympathetic bellhop, who befriends Dan and who tries to convince him to leave the casino he happens to work for; several of the petty loan sharks with whom Dan finds himself inextricably connected; and a whole host of law enforcement officials whose job it is to bring Dan in on grand theft felony charges. The filmmakers have taken a laid back, subtle approach to their material. They allow the story to develop slowly, offering us the chance to get to know Mahowny and his world at an unhurried, leisurely pace. Since Mahowny is, himself, such a secretive, quiet character, it is appropriate that the film that bears his name should also reflect that quality of muted sadness in its pacing and tone. Towards the end, however, once the authorities begin moving in for the kill and we sense the inevitable grip of Fate tightening around this strangely likable character, the film becomes both highly suspenseful and immensely moving at one and the same time. What's fascinating is that we are always one step ahead of Mahowny in our understanding of what is about to befall him. As in all great tragedies, it is the Cassandra-like burden placed on the audience - that of being able to see the future with no hope of doing anything to prevent it - that gives the film its air of pervasive sadness."Owning Mahowny" is a beautifully written, directed and acted film that opens up for us a strange and fascinating world."
Owning "Owning Mahowny"?
John Robertson | Phoenix, AZ | 06/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I rent Owning Mahowny about a year ago and still often find myself thinking about it. I do not rent or see lots of movies anymore, largely due to the flashy, tabloid-fodder being churned out by Hollywood studios these days (curiously, who are all strangely confused why box office receipts keep dropping year-after-year).
I very much like Owning Mahowny, and will be buying a copy. I have a bias towards factual, documentary-style accounts which is part of the reason I like it. But it carries a sober (if unintentional) message to it. I agree with the reviewer who said this should be required viewing before any trip to Vegas. Maybe for stock and options traders too.
The setting of the early 80's is quite convincing, and I found it nostalgic to see the hairstyles, the cars, even the CDN $50 and $100 bills being counted in the opening credits. The character Dan Mahowny is indeed an "unexciting guy" who speaks in a monotone...that's part of the character, as Philip Seymour Hoffman faithfully reproduced after speaking for hours with the real Brian Molony, whose name was changed slightly for the movie's title owing to privacy concerns. Therein lies much of the movie's appeal. This is truly an average guy who did something stunning. Combine this with the movie's matter-of-factual attention to small details, and you suddenly feel like you're there, in 1981, watching this man implode before your very eyes.
If you prefer an Angelina Jolie bad girl, or Uma Thurman dressed up in a yellow suit with a sword, or Will Smith punching-out an alien from the cockpit of an F-16, you're in luck. Hollywood has made all of those movies, and many, many more just like them. Some gratuitous Hollywood production values can be fun, but the original, riveting story of Owning Mahowny was an entertaining and welcome change for me."
Donald Chewms | firstname.lastname@example.org | 01/16/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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.Philip Seymour Hoffman gives yet another mesmerizing performance as Dan Mahowny, a gambling addict that is focused only on the hand he is playing. He is not concerned with the free food, free room, or other lush amenities the casino provides him with as he gambles away all his money.John Hurt is also very impressive as the casino manager who tracks Mahowny's every move and tries to find out as much as he can about this man who is gambling such high stakes.The story moves at a pretty good place, without taking too much time to build up to the plot. This is highly recommended for anybody that prefers character-driven movies to the typical Hollywood blockbusters with explosions and car chases every five minutes. Fans of "2 Fast 2 Furious" may be bored to tears."