Saturday, December 3, 2011
Writer: Gary Steven Ross (book), Muarice Chauvet (screenplay),
Director: Richard Kwietniowski
Starring: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver, John Hurt
This is the hypothetically true story of a Canadian banker who scams millions of dollars out of his bank and uses those dollars to gamble recklessly.
for some reason movies about gambling addiction really bother me to the point where i just don't want to watch them. this was no exception. it was good, i guess, but i just have problems watching someone shoot down the tube of that downward spiral at the speed of light. i'll give a shout out to john hurt. his character kind of saved this movie for me. philip seymour hoffman did good as usual, but it's just not my bag.
This is a movie about desperation as much as it is about addiction; and it succeeds within those parameters. Even without the title card and early scene in the interrogation room, it's clear from about three minutes in that this is not the sort of movie where the protagonist will miraculously win a big bet and walk away from the table. The chief success of this movie for me was that it generated empathy; it was difficult not to hold my head in my hands as his scheme expanded.
Hoffman's range is pretty darned wide and you can almost smell the tired sweat embedded in his clothes. Watching directly through the lens of the camera it's all about him. Witnessing him over the shoulder of casino monitoring staff it comes across expertly in the two sets of angles involved. A beautiful shot of a lone car in a commercial parking garage drives the point home with an eloquence which, while superfluous, could not be left on the cutting room floor.
All three principal performances here are perfectly understated. Barely recognizable under blond hair and a Canadian accent, Minnie Driver works quite well as the girlfriend who deludes herself into taking far too long to pull her head out of the sand. John Hurt's character could be the main one with a few edits and a little more exposition. As neither foil for nor enabler of Mahowny he exists in parallel, knowing exactly how this type of person works but still curious as to his origins.
I started this one by writing, "I think I liked this movie more than I should have," and that's only due to a score which (beginning with a mention in the opening credits) works too hard to underline points that require no emphasis. But it became forgettable in the three days it's taken me to write this.
I enjoy it when I like a (mainstream(ish) American) movie more than my Woman.