5.6/10
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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 »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
George Segal ... J
Karen Black ... Parm
Paula Prentiss ... Veronica
Jay Fletcher 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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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 July 1972 (Denmark) See more »

Also Known As:

Addict See more »

Filming Locations:

New York City, New York, USA

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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Did You Know?

Trivia

When Ed Madsen is chasing George Segal down the hallway, he slips and falls. This was not written in the screenplay. However, Ivan Passer thought it looked so real, he decided to leave it in. 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!
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 »

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User Reviews

One of many fine overlooked movies of the 1970s. George Segal is terrific as JJ, a hairdresser turned junkie hipster.
24 February 2004 | by InfofreakSee all my reviews

I have a great interest in American movies of the 1970s, many of my all time favourites being made during that decade, both within and without Hollywood. Several movies from that period are so well known, and so discussed, especially those of Scorsese and Coppola, that many fine movies are overlooked - 'Hi Mom!', 'Scarecrow', 'The Panic In Needle Park', 'Tracks', 'Fingers',etc.etc. Add 'Born To Win' to that list. Director and co-writer Ivan Passer was a recent Czech immigrant, but he manages to conjure up a very realistic and believable look at the seedy underbelly of NYC. Only 'Midnight Cowboy' and 'The Panic In Needle Park' come close. This isn't the New York of Woody Allen, it's the New York of Lou Reed. Passer displays a lot of talent in this movie, but I know little about his subsequent work apart from his 80s sleeper starring John Heard and Jeff Bridges 'Cutter's Way', which I also highly recommend. George Segal will surprise a lot of people with his performance in 'Born To Win', especially those who only have a one dimensional idea of him from his comedy work. Segal plays JJ, a hairdresser turned junkie hipster, who is, well one has to say it, a born loser. Segal is both funny and cool and sad, and he's just as good in this as Pacino, De Niro or Keitel were in more celebrated roles from this period. De Niro in fact pops up in a small supporting role as a cop, something which is exploited on the DVD cover. He's okay but has a very small role, so fans beware. Hector Elizondo has a much more important part as a drug pusher, and Karen Black, hot off 'Five Easy Pieces', plays JJ's girlfriend, who he meets in a funny scene where he steals her car. Both Elizondo and Black give excellent performances. Also in the supporting cast are Paula Prentiss ('The Parallax View') who plays JJ's junkie wife, and one of the first jobs for character actor Burt Young, who plays a hood. I also liked JJ's pal Billy Dynamite played by Jay Fletcher. If you like gritty and realistic 1970s movies you'll love 'Born To Win', a film which doesn't deserve to languish in such obscurity.


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