Owning Mahowny (2003) – Review

Dan Mahowny (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is a troubled 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

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 superbly details the destruction of Dan Mahowny, demonstrating just how trapped a person can get when chasing losses. The flick was dark, grim and had a depressing feel to it, throughout – the soundtrack also 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, by targeting them from the off. Two rather striking moments came both early, and then late on in the film, where this type of behaviour occurred.

Another interesting aspect of the movie came when noticing the effects addiction can have 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. Some of the scenes, by design, were rather emotional, sad and at times, awkward, for all watching.

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 and this could be seen as one of his finest roles.

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 in nature, but all in all, this was a relatively 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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