Owning Mahowny [2003]

Philip Seymour Hoffman adds another great performance to his gallery of losers in Owning Mahowny, an engrossing, fact-based comedy-drama about the perils of compulsive gambling. The subject is hardly new to movies, but as Toronto bank-loan manager Dan Mahowny, Hoffman brings fresh depth and tortured humanity to his portrayal of a man who helplessly feeds his pathological need to gamble with millions in embezzled bank money that he can't afford to lose. His supportive wife (Minnie Driver, barely recognizable beneath a plain-looking wig and glasses) is aware of the problem but not its severity, and in fulfilling the promise of his debut feature Love and Death on Long Island, British director Richard Kwietniowski strikes a delicate balance of humor, adrenalin, and escalating tension, guiding Hoffman, Driver, and an excellent supporting cast (including Long Island's John Hurt) in a quietly suspenseful study of Mahowny's ill-fated impulse. Set in the early 1980s but timeless in its study of dysfunctional behavior, Owning Mahowny is a safe bet for film lovers everywhere. --Jeff Shannon

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