Owning Mahowny

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Owning Mahowny
Owning Mahowny film.jpg
Owning Mahowny film poster
Directed byRichard Kwietniowski
Produced byAndras Hamori
Seaton McLean
Written byMaurice Chauvet
Based onStung: The Incredible Obsession of Brian Molony
by Gary Stephen Ross
StarringPhilip Seymour Hoffman
John Hurt
Minnie Driver
Maury Chaykin
Music byThe Insects
Richard Grassby-Lewis
Distributed bySony Pictures Classics (US)
Alliance Atlantis (CAN)
Release date
  • 23 January 2003 (2003-01-23)
Running time
104 minutes
United Kingdom
Budget$10 million
Box office$1 million

Owning Mahowny is a 2003 Canadian film about gambling addiction with a cast that includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver, Maury Chaykin and John Hurt. Based on the true story of a Toronto bank employee who embezzled more than $10 million to feed his gambling habit, Owning Mahowny was named one of the ten best films of the year by critic Roger Ebert.


Between 1980 and 1982, Toronto bank employee Dan Mahowny (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is given access to bigger and bigger accounts with his promotion to assistant branch manager. His boss trusts him, but is unaware that Mahowny is a compulsive gambler. Mahowny is soon skimming larger and larger amounts for his own use and making weekly trips to Atlantic City, where he is treated like a king by a competent casino manager (John Hurt). Mahowny's girlfriend, fellow bank employee Belinda (Minnie Driver), cannot understand what is happening. Mahowny's criminal acts come to light when Toronto police begin to investigate his longtime bookie Frank (Maury Chaykin).

The movie's focus is on Mahowny as a character—how his compulsion drives him and all the domino effects it has on the rest of his life. The love story between Mahowny and Belinda and the inclusion of other finely drawn characters such as hapless casino employee Bernie (Chris Collins) put the emphasis squarely on the gambling addiction, not on the flash and sizzle of big casinos or multimillion-dollar frauds.




Owning Mahowny is based on a real-life incident: Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce clerk Brian Molony embezzled over $10 million from his employers in just 18 months to support his gambling habit. Molony's story was told in the best-selling 1987 book Stung by journalist Gary Ross, which formed the basis for the screenplay.

In an interview on the web site of Stung publishers McClelland and Stewart, Ross says he has kept in touch with Molony and updated what happened to him after the events portrayed in the movie. Molony served six years in prison after pleading guilty to fraud. He has not gambled since his arrest, has married his girlfriend, has three sons and works as a financial consultant.[1]

Molony was a manager at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, with access to significant resources. Upon the discovery of his gambling addiction and his crime, he was prosecuted in Canada by Crown Attorney Peter DeJulio. Molony was defended by the late Edward Greenspan. He received a sentence of six years imprisonment, as sought by the Crown.

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce took court action to recover funds from casinos in Atlantic City that enabled Mr. Malony's gambling addiction. The case was settled for an undisclosed sum.


Review-aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes indicates that 79% of critics gave Owning Mahowny a favorable review, with an average rating of 7/10.[2] Film critic Roger Ebert named Owning Mahowny one of the top ten films of 2003,[3] and assessed Hoffman's performance as "a masterpiece of discipline and precision", calling him a "fearless poet of implosion, [who] plays the role with a fierce integrity, never sending out signals for our sympathy because he knows that Mahowny is oblivious to our presence."[4] However, some critics believed that in his self-effacing performance, Hoffman refused to conform to expectations of a typical movie character and that the movie suffered as a result.[5] Stephanie Zacharek considered him to be a "character who squirms right out of our grasp", and despite being the movie's anchor, he's "such a vaporous one, he leaves us feeling adrift".[5]

Asked whether Philip Seymour Hoffman's portrayal matched with the real Brian Molony, journalist Gary Ross replied, "Remarkably so. They have the same stocky build, bushy moustache, glasses, slightly unkempt look, and earnestness. And Philip somehow managed to assimilate the psychic essence of Molony — a yawning emptiness that nothing except gambling was able to fill."[1]

Owning Mahowny earned $1 million, significantly less than its $10 million budget.[5]


Owning Mahowny received nominations for Best Motion Picture, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Best Screenplay (Adapted) and Best Achievement in Music — Original Score (Richard Grassby-Lewis, Jon Hassell) at the 24th Genie Awards.


  1. ^ a b "Author Interview, Gary Ross". McClelland & Stewart. Retrieved 2014-02-03.
  2. ^ "Owning Mahowny". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 19, 2014.
  3. ^ Ebert, Roger, Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2006, ISBN 0-226-18200-2, p. 453. Review by Roger Ebert, May 16, 2003.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Owning Mahowny". Rogerebert.com. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  5. ^ a b c Pomerance, Murray (October 19, 2011). Shining in Shadows: Movie Stars of the 2000s. Rutgers University Press. pp. 115–116. ISBN 978-0-8135-5216-3.

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