Born to Win (1971)

R  |   |  Comedy, Crime, Drama  |  13 July 1972 (Denmark)
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A smart-mouthed junkie/loser known as J.J. (George Segal) spends his days looking for just "one more fix".



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jay Fletcher ...
Billy Dynamite
Danny (as Robert DeNiro)
Ed Madsen ...
Irving Selbst ...
Tim Pelt ...
Little Davey
José Pérez ...
Junior Conception (as Jose Perez)
Sylvia Syms ...
Cashier (as Sylvia Simms)
Jack Hollander ...
Alex Colon ...
Bus Boy
Max Brandt ...
Store Clerk


A smart-mouthed junkie/loser known as J.J. (George Segal) spends his days looking for just "one more fix".

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Their story is written on his arm. If they can get a grip on each other, maybe they can turn their lives around.


Comedy | Crime | Drama


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

13 July 1972 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

Scraping Bottom  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Some of the characters in the film were played by actual New York junkies of the time, people who Ivan Passer encountered while researching the film. See more »


[first lines]
J: They same I'm a charmer... that I charm the people I hustle. Well, that comes after dealing with women, after hairdressing. I love to dress hair! But being that I know what to do, being that I'm hip enough to know, I do it!
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References Sudden Terror (1970) See more »


Written by Ike Turner and Tina Turner
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User Reviews

Better than you'd think
16 November 1998 | by (North Carolina, USA) – See all my reviews

It's interesting to see something as grainy and badly lit as this still bubble to the surface once in a while, particularly in this age of independent films produced on multi-million dollar budgets. This one obviously wasn't; from the outset, with its dated music and hokey effects, you can be sure you're in for low-tech.

What sets Born to Win apart is its solid writing and steady, well-thought out performances. George Seagal, who, strangely, might be best remembered as a cliche on the old Tonight Show, has his character down cold. Karen Black is winning, and with the two of them in the lead, the rest of the movie skims along well. I found myself ignoring the stiff camera work and the Sly and the Family Stone-styled soundtrack to actually watch actors act, to see them sometimes apparently ad-lib entire sequences and do it with gusto.

De Niro is too young for the part in which he's cast, and it shows. He looks like a child and has none of the edge we associate with his later performances. By Taxi Driver he'd toughened up, lost the baby-fat and the boy-next-door haircut. Born to Win should be the movie that argues against Seagal and Black being marginalized in film history as also-rans--Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Stiller would both do well to take a look at this before they try another independent, just to see what people of their caliber were doing 30 years ago with nothing more than a cheap camera, a couple of lights and a boom mic. Well done.

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