Owning Mahowny (2003)

“The true story of a mild mannered banker and his magnificent obsession.” Philip Seymour Hoffman is perfectly cast in this fascinating dark comedy as dumpy Toronto banker and degenerate gambler “Dan Mahowny,” who starts embezzling increasingly larger amounts of money from the bank (we’re talking millions of dollars here!) in order to feed his addiction. The action takes place during the early 1980s in Toronto where Mahowny sets up fraudulent loans (it’s amazing how effortlessly he gets away with these crimes!), as well as Atlantic City and Las Vegas where he gambles the money away. And let me tell you, this pathetic guy has NO interests outside gambling – it is an all-consuming obsession that leads to a rapid downward spiral. For example, Mahowny’s only request when he gets to the casino is for an order of barbecued ribs, no sauce and a Coke (he even rebuffs the high-priced hooker that the casino sends to his room as a perk). The excellent supporting cast includes Minnie Driver (virtually unrecognizable in an ugly 1980’s wig) as Mahowny’s long-suffering girlfriend “Belinda” (he takes her on a “romantic” trip to Las Vegas and quickly ditches her for the casino); John Hurt as “Victor Foss,” the manipulative Atlantic City casino manager who wants his hands on every last penny of Mahowny’s bankroll; Maury Chaykin as Mahowny’s sleazy bookie “Frank Perlin,” who delivers one of the film’s best lines when he remarks that Mahowny “wants to win so that he has money to keep losing”; and Chris Collins as casino employee “Bernie,” who gets hired and fired in direct correlation to Mahowny’s luck at the tables. Directed by Richard Kwietniowski (Love and Death on Long Island, which also starred Hurt), Owning Mahowny was based on a true incident – Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce assistant manager and compulsive gambler Brian Molony served six years in prison for embezzling more than $10 million in just 18 months – that was detailed in the 1987 book Stung by Gary Ross. Useless Trivia: In a 2003 interview with Movie City News, Kwietniowski remarked, “The idea was to tell the story of the world’s least likely high-roller … the world’s least likely pure addict. If this lovable chump was susceptible to such an all-consuming addiction – which would drive him to rob his own bank – then, it could happen to any of us.”

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