To some it's a game. To others it's a habit. But to Dan Mahowny -- beating the odds is everything
An Actor's Film
For anyone in Dan Mahowny's life who cared to look, all the signs were there. Bad hair, disheveled clothes, no overcoat in Toronto in winter, empty apartment and a '74 Dodge Dart. He should have had more but did not. He had everything the addict needs - a source of income, a source of his addiction and several "enablers" in his life.
Owning Mahowny tells the famous and true story of a mid-level bank manager at the CIBC, who in the early 80s, stole $10,000,000 from several high profile clients, and a few non-existent ones. All the funds were lost in Atlantic City and Vegas. But this is not a con movie, it is far more clever than that. It is a detailed and devastating study of a gambling addiction.
We all know that Mahowny will get caught, but how and when. He has no record, is not a criminal and he is well respected at his job. What this film does almost better than anything is reveals how the day to day events allows the protagonist to prolong his inevitable collapse.
As the film progresses, Mahowny becomes more and more paranoid. Every open file, every meeting and every phone call represents his potential downfall. Note how he maneuvers through key meetings and audits. But he is not afraid of getting caught, he is afraid of losing his lifeline to the thrill of the bet.
You just simply cannot say enough about both the leads in this film. Philip Seymour Hoffman is spot on perfect as Mahowny, focused on the next hand, rarely raising his eyes to the camera. John Hurt is also wonderful as the malevolent casino boss who is all too happy to take Mahowny's money and not care where it came from.
Had this film received better backing, Hoffman may well have received his first Oscar nomination. As it stands, you will have to seek this out on DVD. It is an edgy and well directed study in to the mind of an addict. Not perfect, but I loved this from start to finish. ***1/2 out of ****.