Owning Mahowny Review: A True Story of C$10mil Stolen & Lost on Bets
Join us and read our Owning Mahowny film review! Here you’ll see the main aspects, and we share our fan opinion of this Toronto-based flick!
Be aware of spoilers: This text may contain information that is vital to the plot. If you are sensitive to this sort of thing, we recommend you skip over certain parts. Reader discretion is advised.
- Philip Seymour Hoffman → Also famously starred in: The Master (2012), Capote (2005), and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007).
- John Hurt → Also famously starred in: 1984 (1984), Alien (1979), The Elephant Man (1980).
- Minnie Driver → Also famously starred in: Grosee Pointe Blank (1997), Good Will Hunting (1997), The Phantom of the Opera (2004).
Director: Richard Kwietniwoski → Also known for: Love and Death on Long Island (1997), Flames of Passion (1998), A Night with Derek (1997).
Screenwriter: Maurice Chauvet → Notable works: Three-Fifty (Short, 2008), Suicide Sam (Short, 2015).
- Andras Hamori → Also produced: eXistenZ (1999), Casanova (2015, co-production with Ben Silverman), Sunshine (1999).
- Seaton McLean → The Ray Bradbury Theatre (TV series 1985 – 1990), Formula 51 (2001), The Good Thief (2002).
- 24th Genie Awards: Best Motion Picture (Nomination).
- 24th Genie Awards: Best Performance by Leading Actor (Nomination).
- 24th Genie Awards: Best Screenplay from a book adaptation (Nomination).
- Love Liza (2002);
- The Cooler (2003) (link to The Cooler Movie review);
- Croupier (1998).
Owning Mahowny movie blurb
A gambling addict from Toronto has a marvellously evil plan to embezzle millions from a large bank he’s employed at. Using his wit and exploiting the system’s weaknesses, he spends ridiculous amounts of money in Atlantic City.
He has an incredible mind when it comes to illegal sports bets and spending all night at the Roulette or Craps table, but is he talented enough to juggle his vice, his job, the special agents investigating him, and his lover?
This is a fascinating movie with convincing character development that highlights the human and institutional weaknesses through the lens of greed, addiction, and love—a masterfully crafted story with a professional cast and production.
Movie credits overview
|2003||$10 million||Drama||1h 44 min||Richard Grassby-Lewis||Wayne Godfrey|
Film score: What we grade & why!
|Movie Feature||Our rating|
Let’s keep it real! We don’t do serious and sombre reviews for printed papers, and we’re not movie wizards like you see online on top movie rating sites.
But we’re avid movie consumers! Most of our free time is spent looking at flicks, series and shorts, and most of our office breaks are spent dissecting what we liked and what left us weirded out.
Plus, we are specialized in online casinos and the Canadian iGaming market. So, nobody can tell it better than us on movies that imply gambling, betting, and all the others!
What do our marks mean?
It’s easy as 1,2,3, really:
- Final Cut: We truly love it! It impacted us and left us needing to watch the sequel ASAP!
- Almost there: It was pretty dull; it could have been much better, could have been worse.
- Try again: We want to reshoot the film ourselves, we’ll do better.
Please take a look and see how Owning Mahowny came to be and how we rated it thoroughly for your pleasure!
The “Making Of” process & notable backstories
Seymour Hoffman’s character existed in real life and embezzled over 10 million CAD from Canada’s Imperial Bank of Commerce. He was consulted for the book’s writing, after which the film is adapted and when the filming started.
Rumour has it that he was quite satisfied with how the artists portrayed him in both mediums!
Fun fact: The man’s name is Brian Molony, and he was sentenced to 6 years in prison, of which he served only 2. He was represented by Canada’s defence icon Edward Greenspan. After release, he settled down, had 3 children, and worked as a financial consultant.
|Filming sites||Budget||Production company||Highlights|
|Toronto||$10 million||Natural Nylon||Excellent recreation of 80s Toronto. *|
*Many of the buildings that are represented in the movie have the same role, name, or look as they do in present times. Natives of the “The 6” will see familiar things and almost feel the ice-cold draughts of winters, especially in the wide shots of the grey streets with violent bursts of snowstorms.
Bringing the main character to life
This role proved once again the fine acting skills of Seymour Hoffman. We agree with several critics’ opinions that his way of playing detached from the presence of us reviewers adds life and believability. There’s no unnecessary sappy moment when we feel the need to pity him.
We simply sit back and watch the show of his life breaking apart.
Our opinion on the story
You don’t have to be a player or to have played a luck game to get sucked in the story.
In fact, the plot and the way it unfolds are the main strengths, besides the chemistry of the actors and how they put up the appearance of legit people caught up in a stealing and gambling web.
Acting: Final Cut 🥇
You’ve probably got it by now…The leading role is sublimely constructed and presented. As always, Philip Seymour Hoffman applies his renowned acting skills in creating a spectacle that we guarantee you will enjoy.
We want to draw your attention to the way Dan Mahowny and Victor Foss (the casino’s head) interact. Initially, Foss watches the lead through the security footage and plays him like a pawn, then tries to manipulate him with money, food, and sex. Mahowny refuses and goes back and forth with thousands of dollars in winnings: an excellent metaphor for the highs and lows of gambling addiction.
Screenplay: Final Cut 🥇
You can tell that the story is well-written when you kind of know the end of the movie from the first minutes, but you’re still glued to the screen. That’s precisely what happens here.
Fun fact: The text is adapted from the 1987 book entitled “Stung: The Incredible Obsession of Brian Molony,” which was a homeland best seller. Gary Ross and Brian Molony were consulted throughout the pre-production and post-production, adding to the authenticity.
Owning Mahowny visuals & score
For those who lived in 80s Toronto, the images and aesthetics are accurate in every detail. For those who didn’t, you can think of this movie as a time capsule for “The 6” 40 years ago.
Otherwise, the whole sensory experience is shadowed a bit. It might be because we’re too enticed by the acting or because the lights give everything an overly grey allure, even in the highly luxurious and flashy 80s casinos and 5-star hotels from Atlantic City or Vegas.
Cinematography: Almost there 😕
Let’s start with the good news: the shots of Niagara Falls are superb. The costumes are slick and appropriate for the characters. Thus, the casino bosses are sharply dressed all the time, while Dan Mahowny is always slightly chaotically carrying his suits (which are too big). And he doesn’t wear a coat?? In the Canadian winter?!?
However, the whole image and art direction are a bit lacklustre. We’re missing a slight gleam of something when the most challenging psychological moments of Dan.
Score: Almost there 😕
We’re going to be honest here. There was nothing that stood out from the point of view of the musical soundtrack that accompanied the images. Really… we can’t tell you anything that interesting here, except for the very intense moments when Mahowny is facing his addiction.
Yes, when the focus is strictly on the lead and his internal struggle about gambling excessively, then the sounds are stretched and tensed enough to give you the feeling of tension. Mahowny knows in those moments that what he is doing is wrong, exaggerated, and toxic. But his demons win, and they keep winning; this is well-represented in the sounds.
Scenes and sounds: a complete experience?
Not quite. In this case, we have to admit that the cinematography (with its highs and lows) mixes decently with the sound, but, as we’ve mentioned, it feels like it lacks a few dynamic combinations and surprises.
It might be that the acting and feeling that gets through the screen and makes you root for him, his games, and his love needs to be coupled with a grandeur when it comes to what you see and hear, outside of the character development.
Rating the director’s vision
Richard Kwietniwoski managed to bring his know-how of drama movies and adapted it excellently to the story of someone battling an addiction.
Throughout his career, he also experimented with screenwriting, and it shows! The result was a best-seller created for the silver screen, which in no time became a must-see for Canadian gamblers. And from 2021’s POV, when we’re writing our review, we can guarantee it stood the test of time.
Overall directing: Final cut 🥇
When we rate this aspect of movies, we always ask ourselves: “Did the aim hit the target?” Then we proceeded to make a necessary office poll.
And here, there’s a clear and solid YES! Unnecessary, hard-to-believe plot twists do not override the story. What watchers need to take in is the heart-wrenching story of a man with wit and class that internalizes his struggles with gambling.
Kwietniwoski marches on the simple plan of allowing a great cast to carry a real-life story while giving them a minimal intervention of hardcore director suggestions. There’s harmony in simplicity and vitality.
Role in pop culture: Almost there 😕
We’ve got to admit that we really liked this flick (isn’t that a tad evident by now?). Still, the initial public response was minimal compared with the overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics.
Fun fact: From what we could uncover from Box Office records, the movie earned a little over 1 million dollars after its theatre release in 2003. Considering that the budget was 10 times more, this area could have performed much better.
But, from the point of view of real-life gamblers from CasinobonusCA, this movie can come back as a casino cult classic in Canada. Maybe we’re witnessing a Renaissance of classic casino movies!
Owning Mahowny vs casino cinema classics
There’s a consensus in our office: Owning Mahowny can effortlessly stand next to shining stars like Casino (1995) and Ocean’s Eleven (2001), which, as we all know, shock the audience with their incredible cast.
This is because the acting levels are A-class, even for Hollywood standards!
What makes it unique, however, is the way it shifts the focus viewers are used to. The James Bond series and usual casino blockbusters focus on the action, crime, and redemption part of the story, leaving the casino scene as a mere background.
Owning Mahowny leaves all these aspects behind, choosing to focus on the way the gamblers search for a new thrill every time he bets on all the underdogs in sports or stakes millions of dollars in Atlantic City (from stolen money).
You, as a viewer, get a show as much as you get a lesson in psychology, and you get to participate in an empathy exercise. If all these things sound good to you, don’t miss out, and stream it today!
Movie Pros & Cons
- Based on real-life events, you can get a glimpse into someone’s struggles and the way they got themselves out of the mess through the lens of artistic direction.
- The cast is immaculate, and they put up a show worth watching. We agree with professional critics from Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic that gave this movie scores over 75% and 70%, respectively.
- As real-life gamblers ourselves, we can attest that gambling is illustrated accurately, with its highs and lows. To avoid the mistakes Dan Mahowny made, we strongly advise you use our gambling questionnaire to settle any danger from the get-go. It was built by our experts while consulting psychologists and academic papers.
- There are some gems in the script, usually delivered by Dan in an almost inaudible mumble, which are quite funny! Keep your ears open, and don’t miss the comedic moments sprung from the absurd.
- This is not the best movie to watch if you are into special effects or amazing visuals. These are not the main attractions in Owning Mahowny.
- This was definitely not the Box Office hit that you usually see in this decade, having owned just 1 out the 10 parts that were invested in initially.