By William Wolf

OWNING MAHOWNY  Send This Review to a Friend

Bankers and gamblers aren't supposed to mix, unless one happens to be an addictive gambler who also is a banker with the power to approve loans and can give one to a phantom in order to pocket cash personally for the next casino binge. Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman as embezzler Dan Mahowny is able to project the cool exterior and the mysterious interior with deadpan skill to make his character intriguing.

Owning Mahowny" is one picture filmed in Canada that really takes place mostly in Canada, as opposed to films with Canada merely as a stand-in used to save money. The film, directed by Richard Kwietniowski with a screenplay by Maurice Chauvet based on the book "Stung" by Gary Ross, reveals Mahowny to be compulsively placing bets and living in his own world of gambling. He gets in deeper and deeper so that he has to keep embezzling money to which he has access to keep his schemes going.

Can he succeed in winning a bundle and staying out of jail? Mahowny is driving John Hurt as Atlantic City casino operator Victor Foss nuts trying to figure out exactly who the visitor Mahowny is and what makes him a high roller. Foss has reasons for wanting to use Mahowny. Meanwhile, Mahowny is driving his girlfriend Belinda (Minnie Driver) to despair by being totally irresponsible in their relationship and going off on his own to follow his secret life. It is almost impossible to believe that she can be such a doormat, but she loves the guy and could be his salvation if he could ever come down to earth and straighten out.

How all this unfolds is the substance of this film, which is steeped in the atmosphere of living dangerously with attendant characters and escalating stakes. The trouble is that by the end, despite an interesting characterization of an oddball, the film doesn't add up to more than one more study of an embezzler who is bound to be nabbed one day. The how of it all may interest you. A Sony Pictures Classics release.


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