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    Owning Mahowny

    Goodbye, Mr. chips

    Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers another grippingly human performance as a man pulled down into a whirlpool of gambling and debt in "Owning Mahowny."


    Gambling is hot again! First the Borgata, Atlantic City's newest hotel and casino, and now Philip Seymour Hoffman's latest addiction (also centered in Atlantic City as it so happens), the gaming-obsessed "Owning Mahowny." (And no, I won't mention the fact that Mandy Moore's new instructional video also happens to be called "How to Deal.")

    Directed by: Richard Kwietniowski.
    Written by: Maurice Chauvet.
    Adapted from the book by: Gary Stephen Ross.
    Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver, John Hurt, Maury Chaykin, Ian Tracey, Sonja Smits, Chris Collins, Jason Blicker, Vince Corazza, Roger Dunn, Eric Fink, Mike "Nug" Nahrgang, Tanya Henley, Philip Craig, Michael Caruana.
    Cinematography: Oliver Curtis.

    Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    In "Mahowny," which is based on real-life events, Hoffman plays Dan Mahowny, a successful junior associate at a major Toronto bank. While accomplished in his career, Dan unfortunately has what he prefers to call "a little financial problem," forever indebted to a pair of sleazy loan sharks he met down at the track and who come collecting the tens of thousands of dollars Dan owes them when his betting ways quickly become excessive. One thing leads to another and soon enough Dan is extending credit limits on existing — as well as withdrawing against phony — accounts in order to get his fix, all unbeknownst to his nave co-worker girlfriend Belinda (Minnie Driver in a rather obvious blonde wig).

    Helplessly, Dan starts both jetting and spiraling down to AC, NJ, where, under the watchful eye of sleazy casino proprietor Victor Foss (John Hurt), he loses, wins, and loses again, some several million dollars by the time the authorities finally catch up with him.

    As directed by Richard Kwietniowski ("Love and Death on Long Island"), "Owning Mahowny" is a fascinating slice of a corrupted layman's life made all the more compelling by Hoffman's controlled performance at its core. As he was in "Love Liza" (where huffing gasoline fumes was the order of the day), Hoffman is impressive as a man with a singular focus in life ... although I don't really need to see him in any more shower scenes thank you very much. The film, while offering little redemption for its title character, enjoys the causative effects of corruptness, allowing us the opportunity to witness the ease at which an addicted mind can lose complete control.

    SEPTEMBER 4, 2003

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