5.6/10
1,510
30 user 11 critic

Born to Win (1971)

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

Director:

Ivan Passer

Writers:

David Scott Milton (screenplay), Ivan Passer (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

Photos

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
George Segal ... J
Paula Prentiss ... Veronica
Karen Black ... Parm
Jay Fletcher ... Billy Dynamite
Hector Elizondo ... Vivian
Robert De Niro ... Danny (as Robert DeNiro)
Ed Madsen Ed Madsen ... Detective
Marcia Jean Kurtz ... Marlene
Irving Selbst Irving Selbst ... Stanley
Tim Pelt Tim Pelt ... Little Davey
José Pérez José Pérez ... Junior Conception (as Jose Perez)
Sylvia Syms Sylvia Syms ... Cashier (as Sylvia Simms)
Jack Hollander Jack Hollander ... Harry
Alex Colon ... Bus Boy
Max Brandt Max Brandt ... Store Clerk
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Storyline

J.J., a former New York City hairdresser, commits petty crimes, often with his friend Billy Dynamite, to support his drug habit. He's not very good at it, with something often going wrong. One of J.J.'s more regular gigs is working as a mule for Vivian - who J.J. calls Geek Man to Vivian's chagrin - a pimp for who J.J.'s ex-wife, Veronica, also a junkie, now hustles also to support her habit. J.J.'s life has the potential to change the result of two encounters. One is with a pair of NYPD narcs who have him over a barrel concerning his drug use and what they want out of him to make a drug conviction go away. Two is with a young woman named Parm who he meets in the act of one of his crimes. J.J. and Parm enter into a relationship, the love and support within that makes J.J. want to come out on top for once in his life. Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Comedy | Crime | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

David Scott Milton based the characters in this film on the addicts who frequented the Manhattan diner he owned. He then adapted his observations of these characters into an off-off-off Broadway play called "Scraping Bottom". See more »

Quotes

[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! That's love and peace. Love and peace. You just gotta keep sending it out. Love. That love and peace.
[smiles]
J: I'm not J for nothing, you know?
See more »

Alternate Versions

The budget video releases of this film cut the film by approximately four minutes. Among the missing footage: Segal and Prentiss putting tourniquets on in a back room of the nightclub in preparation for taking heroin, an exchange involving Karen Black's character's breast size (and a retort involving Segal's breast size), an extension of the scene featuring Segal in the pink robe giving the "up-yours" sign to the girl on the balcony, dialogue when Black and Segal are making love, and assorted others. A 35mm print screened at New York's Museum of Modern Art in March 2009 retains these scenes. The video prints have been seemingly TV-edited for objectionable content. See more »

Connections

References Sudden Terror (1970) See more »

Soundtracks

Ooh Poo Pah Doo
Written by Jessie Hill (uncredited)
Performed by Ike Turner and Tina Turner
See more »

User Reviews

 
Worth a look
14 October 2003 | by rosscinemaSee all my reviews

While low budget filmmakers in California were making films like "Psych-out" and "The Trip" with Fonda and Nicholson and Hopper it was different in New York. Low budget filmmakers on the east coast took a more tougher look at drugs and it usually took place on the streets of New York. This film is about a drug addict named J (George Segal) who has the tattoo "Born to Win" on his arm and he's always doing favors for a local dealer named Vivian (Hector Elizondo) who is becoming annoyed by J. One day J meets Parm (Karen Black) who is a free spirited girl and they both become attracted to each other right away. J is becoming more desperate and he even resorts to robbing some of the people he does favors for. Two dirty cops (Robert Deniro and Ed Madsen) tell J that they want to bust Vivian and they want him to help. They won't bust J because they want to keep him on the streets but they do make his life even worse than it is. This film was directed by Ivan Passer who is a competent director but has only had a mediocre career making movies. But he does a good job here and all the characters are portrayed as lowlifes. Even Paula Prentiss is a drug addict in this film and it's a strange bit of casting to have her in such a role. Good use of New York locations as it was shot right in the middle of downtown and it gives this film that authentic street look. One of the reasons that this is interesting to view is spotting the actors in early roles. Segal had already broke through with an Oscar nomination in 1966 and he obviously was trying new ground as an actor and Black was fresh off an Oscar nomination herself. Early look at Deniro and Elizondo and Burt Young pops up as a thug about midway through. This has that sad and ambiguous ending but that adds to the impact of this tough and gritty little film. All the performances are pretty good and I would have been interested in seeing Prentiss in a larger role. This doesn't get discussed much when people talk of the New York films of the 1970's but it is a well made low budget entry that others should view.


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 July 1972 (Denmark) See more »

Also Known As:

Scraping Bottom See more »

Filming Locations:

New York, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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