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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

The film was chosen to be screened at the New York Film Festival in October 1971. 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

Ballad in C
Written by Karen Black
Sung by Karen Black
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Don't be fooled by the misleading front cover and you'll find it a rewarding experience
18 August 2005 | by MovieAddict2016See all my reviews

I'm a huge fan of Robert De Niro. I've made an effort to hunt down all of his older films (like Greetings and the awful "Sam's Song" a.k.a. "The Swap") and have done pretty well so far - I saw "Born to Win" at a grocery store for six bucks on DVD and since I'd seen it listed on IMDb as one of his early films (and after making sure it wasn't one of the countless "other titles" for "Sam's Song") I purchased it.

Much to my surprise (well, not really, I kinda suspected as much) the cover was totally deceiving. It features Robert De Niro's face (from another film, mind you), his hand holding a gun. It says, "ROBERT DE NIRO" and "George Segal" in smaller print underneath his name. The tagline on the DVD is something like, "A junkie goes against a cop trying to bring down Mr. Big." Now, mind you, no one in this film is named Mr. Big, and the junkie (Segal) doesn't "go against" the cop. De Niro the Cop is only in TWO scenes (count 'em, two) and has maybe a page's worth of dialogue, if that.

The film relies on Segal and he really delivers a fine performance. The entire cast is good - Hector Elizondo and Karen Black in supporting roles, as well as a younger Burt Young (pre-"Rocky").

This isn't a great film and it isn't superbly directed. It's a bit hard to watch at times due to a grainy transfer and bad audio. But it's reminiscent of Al Pacino's "Panic in Needle Park" so far as it presents a realistic, gritty, depressing vision of junkies operating on the streets, and how miserable your life can become by resorting to drugs (mainly heroin).

A good, rewarding picture - but don't be fooled by the title, nor Leonard Maltin's description of it as a "very funny" comedy.


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