"Thus open the gates of paradise."

In this issue

Owning Mahowny

14 Aug 2003

For a science experiment, try saying the name of this film to anyone. Use it in a sentenceand your audience will be rendered instantly deaf. Here's an example:

"I'm going to see 'Owning Mahowny' tonight." 


"I said, I'm going to see 'Owning Mahowny' tonight. At the movie theatre." 

"What's that?"

"A movie. With Philip Seymour Hoffman."

"Who??? What's he been in?"

And now your difficulties really begin. Hoffman is a hard working actor -- which in his case is a very good thing -- but he has a tendency to disappear into his roles, making it really hard to pick out the films he's been in. But here are a couple: "Magnolia", "25th Hour", "Almost Famous", "State and Main", "Flawless". Altermatively, you can print out the picture on the left and point to the person on the left with the glasses. That's him.

"Owning Mahowny" tells the story of Canadian banker Dan Mahowny, a man who doesn't have a gambling problem, though he does admit do a certain "financial situation." He's a clean cut, straight arrow (boring) person you'd barely want to pass an elevator ride with. Not the knid of person you'd ever suspect of embezzling $10 million from his bank to finance a growing gambling addiction. There's the weekends to Atlantic City where he loses some, then lots, then an awful lot of money. There's the weekend in Vegas. And the ongoing bets placed though his local contact, played by Maury Chaykin -- another actor no one seems to have heard of, but who shows his worth in every frame of film.

The story is a tragedy, a hero who falls from grace. There's no secret to it; that's the only way the film could play out. And because you know this right from the start, it makes it painful to watch. 

So who have I mentioned? Philip Seymour Hoffman. Maury Chaykin. John Hurt plays a casino owner intent on getting Mahowney's business. And Minnie Driver is in it, which is about all the mention her part deserves, I'm afraid.

For a view from the other side of the blackjack table, may I suggest a completely different film, Croupier, with Clive Owen. Equally dark, that film follows a incorruptible dealer who regards the casino's customers as chumps and inevitable losers. The only way to win is not to play.


Owning Mahowny (IMDB)

Owning Mahowny (Official site)

Croupier (IMDB)