Owning Mahowny


Generally favorable reviews - based on 29 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 22 out of 29
  2. Negative: 0 out of 29

Critic Reviews

  1. 100
    There have been many good movies about gambling, but never one that so single-mindedly shows the gambler at his task.
  2. In the acting department, there's nobody on the current scene with more sheer talent --- or offbeat charisma -- than Philip Seymour Hoffman, in whose bearish body nestles the heart of a lithe and limber artist.
  3. Hoffman plays Dan Mahowny's addiction to instant money as something dirty and private and, at the same time, soul-quickening.
  4. Unusual, as such movies go, in its disregard for busy theatricality.
  5. As channeled by the extraordinary Hoffman, Dan Mahowny is less a freak than a nerve-deadened Everyman with the courage to search for something that makes him feel alive.
  6. 80
    Kwietniowski has managed to create a surprisingly engrossing and suspenseful narrative without resorting to cosmetics, melodrama or hype.
  7. 80
    Kwietniowski follows up his impressive debut feature, "Love and Death on Long Island," with this equally absorbing study of a compulsive personality.
  8. 80
    Atlantic City casino boss played with pointedly corrupt amusement by John Hurt, doesn't merely oversee hell but gets a real kick out of the damned.
  9. The situation is not too far removed from that of Jayson Blair and The New York Times. The corporate oversight in place to catch deceptions is lulled into becoming part of the deception. Mahowny wanders through this film as if waiting to get caught, forced into deeper gambling debt because no one applies any brakes.
  10. 75
    Owning Mahowny may at times feel futile in its colorless, disheartening subject matter, but that's the point -- to see how barren Mahowny's life becomes. Hoffman gives the film relevance.
  11. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    At its best, Mahowny is intricate, engrossing, wryly funny, and strangely poetic.
  12. An unflashy but fascinating meditation on addiction and greed. The junkie was clearly Mahowny, but the greed, in a way, was everybody else's: the bankers', their flush clientele's, and the casinos', all busy feeding his habit.
  13. A fascinating fact-based portrait of a gambling addict.
  14. This may be the quietest addict ever to hit movie screens, as well the most disturbing.
  15. Kwietniowski turns up the tension so incrementally, we don't realize the scope of Mahowny's moral wreck until it is too late.
  16. Kwietniowski might have tried for some edginess that would express a measure of the excitement Mahowny is experiencing. Despite the driven intensity of the banker, the film threatens to slip into the lifelessness of the drab world it depicts.
  17. 70
    Owning Mahowny shares the earlier ("Love and Death on Long Island") film's crisp precision, but it's a far more rigorously sublimated and abstract account of l'amour fou.
  18. Hoffman has his specialty, though, and it’s not inappropriate here: He always looks supersmart and yet his reactions to what goes on around him are superslow.
  19. 70
    Another actor might not have been able to carry the film, given such a creepily monomaniacal character, but Hoffman lets the humanity soak through, registering split seconds of panic when he's on the verge of getting caught, then just as quickly creating and working a new plan.
  20. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    There are some effectively suspenseful moments in the movie, particularly during the gambling sequences, but one longs for more context and probing into the psyche of an ordinary man with an extraordinary compulsion.
  21. Hoffman is a fine actor in a rut, working on a string of socially alienated characters who are variations on the same theme. That's too bad, because the story being told around his static presence is amazing.
  22. 63
    Hurt, who starred in Kwietniowski's earlier study in compulsion, "Life and Death on Long Island," is oily perfection as the devious Victor.
  23. There could have been life in the material, but no one involved save Hurt and Collins seems to have taken the time to find it.
  24. 60
    Just doesn't give us enough to hold onto, perhaps partly because it's executed with so much restraint and subtlety. It's often a tense, uncomfortable little movie.
  25. 60
    Whatever minor entertainment there is to be gleaned from Mahowny -- set in the early 1980's, mostly in Toronto -- comes in bits and pieces.
  26. After its irresistible first act, Owning Mahowny loses its energy and focus very fast.
  27. Ironically, it's most engaging when the focus shifts to Hurt's matter-of-factly amoral enabler, whose glistening suits and jewel-colored shirt-and-tie combinations suggest a particularly poisonous tropical reptile.
  28. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Hoffman confessed he was drawn to the role because ''this was a guy who didn't know how to feel, and I found that fascinating.'' His challenge is our frustration
  29. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Hurt give compelling performances... But the coldly unrewarding drama is as distant and joyless as its protagonist, representing a disappointment for director Richard Kwietniowski.

Awards & Rankings

User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 18 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 8
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 8
  3. Negative: 0 out of 8
  1. Dec 27, 2014
    This film is a success for one major reason and that is Philip Seymour Hoffman. It is no shocker he turned in a great performance here,This film is a success for one major reason and that is Philip Seymour Hoffman. It is no shocker he turned in a great performance here, considering he always did so in his career, but he truly carried this film. The plot is interesting, yes, and the other actors here, such as Minnie Driver and John Hurt, are also strong, but boy oh boy does Hoffman ever stand tall. Luckily, the storyline is also very captivating and hooks you right in as you realize what Mahowny has been doing and how deep he is in the hole that makes him do what he does. The struggles facing this man are perfectly portrayed by Hoffman and the struggles facing his girlfriend are brilliantly and beautifully portrayed by Driver, who is a close second to Hoffman here in terms of performance. Overall, Owning Mahowny paints a sympathetic and understanding picture of a man of a man who embezzled more than $10 million and is a success thanks to the acting and solid story. Full Review »
  2. Dec 12, 2012
    What transcends and carries this true story of the largest bank fraud case in Canadian history is the phenomenal central performance ofWhat transcends and carries this true story of the largest bank fraud case in Canadian history is the phenomenal central performance of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Dan Mahowny (Hoffman) is a bank manager with a serious gambling problem. With his position, he has access to a multi-million dollar account witch ultimately leads to him gambling $10 million dollars in a span of 18 months. The main focus of the screenplay is Mahowny's obsession and compulsion and it's devastating effects professionally and personally. It's Hoffman's ability to reveal to us that beneath his all consuming addiction lies a descent, desperate soul. Full Review »
  3. May 4, 2012
    Philip Seymour Hoffman and Minnie Driver give painfully depressing, but outstanding, performances in this gritty film based on a true story ofPhilip Seymour Hoffman and Minnie Driver give painfully depressing, but outstanding, performances in this gritty film based on a true story of a banking executive, responsible and reliable in every way...except for a debilitating gambling problem. Dan Mahowny (Hoffman) uses his clout and trust to manipulate the system to keep his addiction going. The movie is hard to watch as the situations are very tense. The performances and direction are superb, though, engaging the viewer in the first few minutes of the opening scene. Full Review »