Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Philip Seymour
Hoffman, Minnie Driver, Maury Chaykin, John Hurt
Director: Richard Kwietniowski
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Length: 105 Minutes
Release Date: October 14, 2003
folks believe everyone has a public life, a private life, and a secret life.
What do you think about that?”
“The thing is, I guess…that my
secret life is a bit less secret than anyone else's right now.”
Mahowny is a stirring
character study of a man who has dug himself deep into a hole, and can't seem to
fight off the very addiction which is digging the hole for him. The addiction in
this case is that of gambling, and like all compulsive gamblers, the one
depicted in this film is so hooked on the pressure of gambling, that it's almost
as if he's in it for the sensation of losing, rather than to simply win. The
fact that the film's story actually happened makes it even more fascinating.
The fire and
strength of the movie is in that of Philip Seymour Hoffman's brilliantly toned
performance. Hoffman plays Dan Mahowny, an employee of a bank in Toronto who has
just been promoted to the position of vice president. If there's one thing to
learn from Mahowny's story, it's that being an addictive gambler and a bank
employee is a dangerous combination.
currently in debt up to his eyeballs. His bookie (Maury Chakin) is on the verge
of dropping him. However, Mahowny's instincts change once he is given access to
a bank account worth nearly twenty million. Of course Mahowny, never to hesitate
when it comes to risks, takes advantage of this ultimately risky plot to take
care of his debts, but his problems are only about to escalate.
Mahowny is making frequent trips to Atlantic City, with larger sums of cash per
trip. His visits capture the eye of casino manager Foss (John Hurt), who grows
attached to Mahowny quicker than a fly to a corpse, for lack of a better
expression. Foss, whose profession somewhat requires him to grow a liking to
casino frequenters/losers, keeps a close eye on Mahowny's gaming status, along
with all the comps like food, room, and even prostitutes, which Mahowny is quick
to reject since he's much in love with his fiancée, Belinda (Minnie Driver).
There's a scene
about midway through the movie that perfectly illustrates, I think, just how
powerful the addiction of gambling can be. Mahowny is at a craps table, and has
won enough money to take care of both his debt and payback the money he's been
secretly ripping off. After taking time to acknowledge this, Mahowny insists to
continue playing, and he loses from that point on. Even the casino manager is
baffled by the maneuver.
The real life
incident that inspired the movie took place right in Toronto during the early
1980s. It turns out; Mahowny spent nearly two years taking money from the
account in hopes of getting lucky. His debt to his bookie was only in the area
of $10,000, and Mahowny's take from the bank was an astonishing $10.2 million.
Mahowny is a much fascinating
character piece fueled by the wonderfully focused performance by Hoffman, who
remains one of the most unique and coreagous actors of his time. This is nothing
short of a tour de force, and is the reason this fact-based movie works so well.
offering from Columbia Tri Star is most satisfying, if not complete excellence.
The story switches settings from Toronto to Atlantic City to Las Vegas, and each
of the sets benefit well, especially the interior of the A.C. casino, where most
of the action takes place. A lot of the Toronto-based shots have sort of a gray-ish
tone to them, and result in some often soft imaging, which is the only flaw.
Other than that, a good show.
This is a good
enough 5.1 mix that can do so much with a word-driven movie. On that part, the
dialogue is extremely well delivered, and the scenes in the casino generate a
level of some range. For the most part, this presentation is about as good as
you're ever going to get with a film like this.
Included is a
trailer, as well as bonus trailers for Love
Liza, Masked and Anonymous, and Punch-Drunk