Owning Mahowny

"Good"

Owning Mahowny Review


If there's any actor today who's blessed with being born at the right time, it's Philip Seymour Hoffman. Roly-poly, anxious, and pathetic-looking, in the '30s he'd play a bit role in noirs as a heavy. In a '50s western, he'd be the fellow in the corner of a saloon who got shot first. In an '80s teen exploitation flick, he'd be the fat fraternity pledge forced to perform some sort of humiliating rush antic. But in the Miramax era, where clinging to one last shred of dignity is a heroic character trait, Hoffman gets to be our new Brando. His role as a desperate gambling addict in Owning Mahowny is custom-made for him. It's a shame he's thrust into a film that seems more than a little desperate itself.

Based on a true story set in the early 1980s, Hoffman plays Dan Mahowny, a middle manager at a Toronto bank who finds himself swamped by gambling debts. To square matters with Frank (Maury Chakin), a bookie with a snow globe fetish, he uses his job's authority to set up fake loans and cash transfers. Hoffman doesn't play Mahowny as outwardly desperate; sitting at his desk with a loan approval form he's about to fake, he sweats and stares, but he's committed to feeding his addiction. There's a gleam of opportunity in his eyes, and you can feel him thinking: X amount of dollars means Y hours at the blackjack table in Atlantic City. Little else matters, including moral qualms.

Of course, nobody expects bank fraud out of somebody as schlumpy as Mahowny, including his mousy girlfriend Belinda (Minnie Driver). His pasty thighs walk through a life that features his aging car, a bad mustache, and a receding hairline. It's hard to tell at first glance the difference between Dan the banker and Dan the high roller; there are no cliched scenes of him howling with joy after making a great run at the casino. All Dan gets out of gambling is focus. At the tables, Hoffman's eyes are rigid and intense; anywhere else, they shift wildly or just stare into space.

Problem is, Hoffman does his job almost too well. It's clear halfway through Owning Mahowny that nobody with a need so consuming - and suits so ill-fitting - is going to come within 50 miles of redemption. All that's left to see his how far Mahowny's compulsions are going to take him, which in this case is $10.4 million in bank fraud (a figure that's less impressive when you realize it's Canadian dollars).

As a director, Richard Kwietniowski likes slow movement and washed-out backgrounds. In his first feature, 1997's Love and Death on Long Island, he announced himself as the only director working in color who loves gray above all else, and he continues that approach here. That's sharp thinking when it comes to the casino scenes, which show Las Vegas and Atlantic City for what they are: Dreary halls with cheap chairs, cheap carpets, and cheap people losing their shirts. But everything else is flat and bleached out, and the rest of the cast winds up being underused and forced to stick with a handful of behavioral tics. Driver, in oversized glasses and a bad hairdo, can only look bemused. John Hurt, playing the venal Atlantic City casino owner, offers a few limp cackles.

Kwietniowski seems to prefer that actors to be mere placeholders for plot mechanics, which explains why he believed that Jason Priestley, of all people, could carry Long Island. Hoffman is a much smarter choice, of course, and he gives a gleam of life to what is otherwise a dry and workmanlike film. Towards the end, Dan's bookie asks him, "Why do you have to go around looking like a douche bag all the time?" We know the answer: It's the Miramax era, and we love to watch it.

Mahowny 0wn3d.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 104 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 25th September 2003

Box Office USA: $0.7M

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 74 Rotten: 20

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Dan Mahowny, as Belinda, as Victor Foss, as Frank Perlin, as Det. Ben Lock, K. C. Collins as Bernie, as Dave Quinson, Vince Corazza as Doug, as Dana Selkirk

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.