Owning Mahowny (2003) – Review

Dan Mahowny (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is a man struggling to get through a gambling problem, or as he refers to it as, a financial problem. A rising star in his profession (banking), this story superbly portrays the effects of his actions on not only himself but his colleagues, friends and partner Belinda (Minnie Driver).

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Director: Richard Kwietniowski
Writers:  Gary Stephen Ross, Maurice Chauvet
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver

* Review Contains Spoilers *

Some say gambling is the worst and most destructive addiction known to man. A single playing card or roll of a dice can turn a life upside down and this movie details the destruction of Dan Mahowny and shows just how trapped a person can get when chasing losses. The movie was dark, grim and depressing throughout – the soundtrack did a splendid job of capturing the tone of each scene and the lighting had a similar impression.

I’d go as far as saying that Owning Mahowny was also a reality check for some – it was a bleak look at how casinos or people running them, can identify and exploit a person they deem worthy of such treatment. Two rather striking moments came both early and then late on in the movie. The first being when Dan enters a casino carrying and planning on gambling with cash that did not belong to him but sees a Chinese man with an entourage of people behind him, being pampered as he began his long night of wagering. To the naked eye, this seems like the dream scenario for any onlooker, but as the movie developed, Dan slowly became that man, but only after the casino were prepared to pamper him with his own entourage and special service because of the money he was losing each weekend.

Another aspect of the movie came when noticing the effects his addiction had on others. On more than one occasion, Dan would discard the people close to him, disrespecting his friend and then partner Belinda, in the process. A rather emotional, sad and somewhat awkward part of the flick came when Dan and Belinda jetted off for a weekend in Las Vegas together, but ultimately this turned into an opportunity for Dan to gamble even more cash that wasn’t his.

As with most gambling movies, you begin to feel the pain of the characters suffering with the addiction and this was no different. You not only felt the pain that Dan must have been going through but also that of Belinda throughout. It must be said however, Phillip Seymour Hoffman played the role of a lonely, desperate and trapped gambler extremely well.

The film wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination and I’d go as far as saying the final 30-40 minutes were somewhat pedantic and predictable as law enforcement started closing in on what Dan was doing, before finally being arrested upon returning from his final trip to Atlantic City. A rather impressive film that was well written, directed and acted by all fronts.

“I have… A financial problem.”

Dan Mahowny – Owning Mahowny

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