Owning Mahowny [2003]

Owning Mahowny [2003]

Owning Mahowny [2003]
Director: Richard Kwietniowski
Genre: Crime/Drama
Language: English
Country: USA

Owning Mahowny is the tale of Dan Mahowny (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a Canadian bank manager who has a serious gambling problem. To support his bad habit, Mahowny begins embezzling money from his bank. At first, he embezzles “just” $10,300 to pay off his current debt to his bookie (Maury Chaykin). However, this begins to spiral out of control and soon he finds himself in well over his head, to the tune of millions of dollars. Eventually he is caught, obviously, but it is fascinating to watch his dissent toward absolute rock bottom. This is all based on the true story of Brian Molony, who embezzled more than $10 million from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in the 1980’s.

This movie’s greatest strength is its lead, Philip Seymour Hoffman, who does an unbelievable job portraying a gambling addict. He shows no emotion at all, and outside of his normal 9-to-5 banking job the only thing he cares about is gambling. Hoffman shows that Mahowny lives in his world, and that world only. A strong supporting cast is present as well, mainly in the form of John Hurt as the Atlantic City casino boss who does everything he can to make Mahowny comfortable while he loses his millions, and Minnie Driver as Dan’s girlfriend who can’t give him up no matter how caught up in gambling he is.

As a character study, Owning Mahowny is fascinating, yet incredibly depressing. There is one scene in particular that is hard to watch: Mahowny is finally beating the Atlantic City casino and is up by millions of dollars. Rather than stopping while he is ahead for once, and despite the beggings of his personal assisant (provided by the casino), Dan proceeds to blow everything he has earned, right down to the last dollar. It is sad to watch him continue to partake in his vices, especially when the only way for him to get out of it is by getting caught. One of the casino workers made a comment similar to “You know why he’s happy when wins? He has more money to lose.” So sad, yet so true.

Owning Mahowny is a slow, brooding film that has nothing resembling happiness in it. As a dark portrait of gambling addiction, this movie succeeds. Just don’t expect a happy ending.


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