Its a good thing I liked Owning Mahowny, because, if I hadnt, I would have forgotten it long ago. You see, I saw it at a screening way back last Spring. It was so long ago, I can't recall the date. But I do remember the movie and how long it finally took to play in my city of residence: Sacramento, CA, where lots of strange things are happening this Fall. But I digress. Sorry.
I kept waiting for the film to open here, but it was delayed for weeks and weeks, making way for other films (good, bad and ugly) that were selling tickets. And it didn't play very long when it did open here, which got me to thinking that the masses were probably not too impressed with this little gem. But I was, so now I'm thinking that if you frequent films that show at The Westby Cinema in Tulsa, you may feel the same way.
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Dan Mahowny, a quiet, disheveled Toronto bank manager with a gambling problem that can only be described as Big Time. (The script is loosely based on a true story from the 80s) A poor dresser, but fast with numbers, Mahowny, over time, embezzles 10.2 million dollars from the bank to feed the little monkey on his back that thrills to the simple act of placing a bet. Winning or losing is something else. Oh yes, most of his gambling is done south of the border, down Atlantic City way.
Enter New Jersey casino owner, Victor Foss, played by one of my favorite actors, John Hurt. The words unctuous and oleaginous come to mind when I think of John Hurts character. On observing just how much of a gambling habit Dan has, Victor is out to own Mahowny in the worst way. The back-and-forth between these two characters is what makes the movie hum.
I must take a moment and stop to rave about John Hurts job in this film, not that Philip Seymour Hoffman isnt worth raving about too. But Hurt has captured the smarmy insincerity of the casino boss so well, it must be underscored. Ill see this movie again just on his performance alone. Then, Ill see it once more just for Hoffmans.
Whats not to rave about in Owning Mahowny is Minnie Driver as Dans girl friend, Belinda. First of all, shes much too pretty, well-groomed and simple-minded to be the main squeeze of a nerdy, hell-bent embezzler-gambler. Shes hell-bent on marrying the guy and its quite clear that she could do a whole lot better, if not smarter. But she wouldnt know that. Although there are some funny moments between Hoffman and Driver, the real meat of this movie is sandwiched between the characters Hoffman and Hurt play.
Foss offer of a complimentary, sumptuous European dinner is rejected. But a Coke and some barbeque (hold the sauce) would do fine, Dan replies. Hurts characters reaction to this is priceless.
Owning Mahowny is one of those good little movies that gets trampled in the stampede of marketing. I'm just glad that The Westby Cinema in Tulsa is playing it so I can tell you how good it is. William Bennett notwithstanding, "Owning Mahowny" will be enjoyed with or without sauce.
On the official "Owning Mahowny" site, you can watch a QuickTime trailer.
Gary Chew can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's HBO's schedule for future showings.