Owning Mahowny Reviews
The screenplay by Maurice Charvet is based on the book "No Limit" by Gary Ross, and it smartly focuses solely on the devastating obsessive behavior of bank manager Dan Mahowny without all of the flash that you would find in a big Hollywood movie.
This is as real and painful as it gets, and at the center of it all is the mesmerizing and fearless performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. It's an amazingly layered piece of work, and in many ways it's even better than his Oscar winning performance in "Capote". You notice the way Hoffman is rarely able to look anyone in the eye and the fact, as one character puts it, you never even really know what he gets out of gambling. As it's stated in the script, he only seems to want to win money in order to lose it again, and it's never a question of if he's going to get caught: only when. Frankly, it's quite miraculous that he's able to get away with this charade for as long as he does, many time brushing away the harshest suspicions with a mere sentence or two. It's a credit to Hoffman, who sells it.
"Owning Mahowny" is a powerhouse film that lingers with you long after it's over with one unforgettable lead performance. Thanks to Hoffman and a terrific script, an ordinary subject becomes something special.
-Um... A hundred.
-What about the biggest thrill you've ever had outside of gambling?
Life can sometimes overcome fiction and its rules of probabilities as shown in the real-life-based film by Richard Kwietniowski about an unassuming bank employee whose areas of his personal life slowly begin to hit a new bottom when his ability to transfer funds in an out of the bank after a promotion and approving loans to non-existent clients meet his addiction: gambling. With a low-key execution, the story unfolds patiently, but with not the impact that could mirror the mathematical and even legal implications that this event suggests it had in real life. It also carries a strong message in the end, which is only suggested with the final dialogue quoted above, but not developed fully with that intensity of living at least five times less intensely outside the addiction. Nevertheless, the grand Seymour Hoffman knows how to stay with his troubled character, and John Hurt is terrific as the badass and calculating bastard casino manager.
And the subtexts of the greed of Zoss played by John Hurt, Casino owners and the gambling industry in general were also brilliantly portrayed..
I just loved every aspect of this film from those who were really rooting for him (his "personal" valet who was fired when thought he was lost to Vegas, rehired when he reappeared, and finally fired again when Voss knew Mahowny's time was up
I appreciated also the men in the control tower watching him and wanting him so badly to won.
. Unfortunately, his addiction was so palpable, that he couldn't even take one instant to appreciate those on his side. Only in the end did he realize his true comrades and appreciate his lovely girlfriend played by Minnie Driver.
There was something viscerally redemptive about this film. And I can't quite put my finger on it, but it might be that we have seen the stereotypical gambling addict as a "happy go unlucky", when inside he/she is dying in a vault of obsessive compulsion.. Nothing to smile about unless you happen to be John Hurt (marvelous) or the Casino owners.
I shall keep this film on my DVR until "I delete". There will always be room for this finely honed film.
Dan Mahowny (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is helper and recently promoted to be an assistant branch-manager of the Bank. Mahowny's is an addictive gambler - he has been playing with large sum of the money to subsidize his gambling habits. He is a frequent flier to a Casino in Atlantic City. The manager (John Hurt) of the Casino is a greedy person who should do everything to please Mahowny by offering him lavish stay, courteous staff. Mahowny has been backing the clients with fishy records. Mahowny's girlfriend (who is also a clerk at the bank) is fed-up about his obsession with gambling and calls it his 'gambling problems' - Mahowny doesn't accept believe in it he refers to it rather 'financial problems'.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is gone from our world - he was one of my top-favorite actors around. I had always appreciated his acting skills, he was a gifted man with huge capacity to pull the audience towards himself. Hoffman's death has done huge loss to the Hollywood like a termite biting slowly on wood chunks.
In Owning Mahowny, Hoffman plays the role solidly and dedicatedly. Some should not regard it huge glamour and glitz that displays abstract life at the Casino (like Martin Scorsese' Casino) - but generally speaking Hoffman has actually brought in focus a habit of a gambler whose inner-peace is lost. Too many movies lay their focus on glamourizing the Casino life and charm of the so-called witty gamblers - Hoffman has indeed cut open the gambler to let us see what they actually go through.
Mahowny received six years sentence for fraud. He never bet again after what he went through. In Atlantic City the occasion became known as 'Dan Mahowny Day'.
NOTE: I have seen gamblers - they are considered untouchable souls of the society. There was this illiterate but addictive gambler in my neighborhood - once while at his routine, it was notified to him that his infant daughter was ill and need to be taken to the hospital. He conveyed his message to his wife that he should be home soon - he was still gambling and the news arrived to him that his daughter had died, even after listening to this he kept playing. The messenger told the news to the owner of tea-hotel where he was playing (the owner is my neighborhood and a friend - he'd told me whole story) - this owner after being raged by his miserable attitude, threw him out of the hotel. So, I could entirely correlate this bad habit of gambling with that of Dan Mahowny - only in case of Mahowny, who did not consider it 'gambling problem'.
The main focus of the screenplay is Mahowny's obsession and compulsion and its devastating effects professionally and personally. Mahowny is emotionally sealed off, a man with no interests and no pleasures, a kind of dead soul who needs to gamble to feel truly alive. "Mahowny" is not a feel-good story about one man's ability to overcome addiction. Instead, it illustrates a deepening spiral of compulsive behavior, his withdrawal from society, and the unyielding power of denial. The story has some tense moments, but ultimately it's Hoffman's ability to reveal to us that beneath his all consuming addiction lies a decent, desperate soul.