This is a daily countdown of the greatest gambling movies of all time ranked from #25 to #1. Today, we feature #24.
Owning Mahowny is a Canadian film based on the true story of a Toronto banking executive who turned to embezzlement in order to fuel his out-of-control gambling habit. The title role is played by the late Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Listed as one of the best films of the year 2003 by numerous critics, Owning Mahowny examines the duel life of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce clerk Brian Molony, who stole more than $10 million from his bank to feed his casino gambling addiction during the 1980's.
Mahowny leads a twisted double life. On the outside, to those around him at home and work – he’s a respected bank manager who never misses a day, is always on time, has everyone's unwavering trust, and has almost unlimited access to cash. But in secret on the inside – on weekends, he's a high-roller on who’s given all the perks by Atlantic City casinos.
Naturally, the odds gradually catch up with Mahowny. The predictable happens. Mahowny's financial hole turns into a giant pit of debt as the first-class casino junkets multiply. An Addiction deteriorates into criminality, and that's the basis of this intense thriller that we all know will not end well. Spoiler alert: The house always wins. The casino even beats the guy who runs the bank.
This well-crafted drama includes John Hurt and Minnie Driver in supporting roles. Hurt plays the New Jersey casino manager who senses there's serious trouble with a bank employee who makes just $35,o00 a year, but sometimes gambles $300,000 in a night. Ding, ding, ding! Alarm bells, anyone? Mahowny's girlfriend, fellow bank employee Belinda (played by Minnie Driver) slowly realizes what is happening, but by then it's too late.
Mahowny's criminal acts come to light when Toronto police begin to investigate another crime and the caper comes crashing down on the unsustainable high-wire act. The gambler inevitably falls, with no safety net.
Postscript: The real Molony received a sentence of six years imprisonment, a light verdict given the sums that were stolen. Later, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce tried to recover funds from Atlantic City casinos that were negligent and enabled the gambling addict to commit fraud and embezzlement. The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
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You can watch and enjoy "Owning Mahowny," but don't be like Mahowny. Instead, wager responsibility at SPREADS.CA