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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Richard Kwietniowski|
scr Maurice Chauvet
with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver, John Hurt, Maury Chaykin, Ian Tracey, Jason Blicker, Chris Collins, Sonja Smits, Vincent Corazza, Matthew Ferguson, Janine Theriault, Roger Dunn
release US 2.May.03, UK 23.Feb.04 DVD
Romantic weekend in Vegas: Driver and Hoffman.
Based on a true story, Kwietniowski's follow-up to Love and Death in Long Island is a similarly introspective odyssey, taking us deep into the mind of an obsessive man who gets himself in far too deeply for his own good. The film also features career-best performances from Hoffman (which is saying a lot!) and Driver.
Dan Mahowny (Hoffman) is a loan office in a Toronto bank in the early 1980s. There's plenty of money around, and playing with these large numbers makes him forget his meagre earnings. He starts gambling on sporting events, then when his debt to a loan shark (Chaukin) gets bigger he starts "borrowing" money from the bank to place increasingly larger bets, eventually heading off to Atlantic City or Las Vegas for the weekend. Now he's neglecting his girlfriend (Driver) and attracting the interest of a ruthless casino boss (Hurt) as well as a tenacious detective (Tracey).
Kwietniowski directs this brilliantly--quiet and moody, atmospheric and never flashy, and yet capable of moments of unbearable tension and an almost overpowering sense of paranoia. And the cast is excellent, giving beautifully understated performances. Hoffman is magical--a gambling addict who knows he doesn't have a problem! As his debts mount, we see his inventiveness and hopefulness rise and fall. And we ride this rollercoaster with him. We bear the weight of Dan's terrible secrets, his nervous energy and the sense that someone is watching, and his house of cards might collapse around him at any moment. Even his emotional attachment to his girlfriend is palpable, helped by a deeply effective, against-type performance from Driver. This is terrific filmmaking, and it's a shame that it's gone straight to video in the UK, because the film not only has two terrific British leads, but it also has a sharp visual style that deserves to be seen on a big screen.
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