Dan Mahowny was a rising star at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. At twenty-four he was assistant manager of a major branch in the heart of Toronto's financial district. To his colleagues he was a workaholic. To his customers, he was astute, decisive and helpful. To his friends, he was a quiet, but humorous man who enjoyed watching sports on television. To his girlfriend, he was shy but engaging. None of them knew the other side of Dan Mahowny--the side that executed the largest single-handed bank fraud in Canadian history, grossing over $10 million in eighteen months to feed his gambling obsession.Written by
Sujit R. Varma
This item is interesting as a film and for non-cinematic reasons. The film is Canadian, and tells the story of Dan Mahowny, a minor bank accountant who stole millions from his Toronto employer.
Two central performances make this an outstanding little film. I daresay Phillip S. Hoffman will never do better than this understated, tense character. Minnie Driver is also compelling in her role.
The film suffers from a first 40 minutes that are linear and predictable to the point of pendanticism. In fact, the film is very pedantic and comes across as a pulpit speech against the vices of gambling. On the other hand, there are moments of payoff, and scenes that work beautifully.
Candian viewers -- those with a sense of the subtle -- will feel a bit force-fed. There are dozens of local references that clang as "local color" -- to such an extent that one wonders whether they weren't programmed by the agencies that paid for the production. The references are like branding stickers on a nectarine. So you'll hear trite dialogue that belabors the
names of hockey teams, mentions CFL games, and reviews tourist spots in and around Toronto (Niagara Falls is prominent, and very little irony lightens the use of this hoary site).
At one point, early, action shifts back to Toronto. The shift is signified by a large, grandiose Canadian flag. The flag flies from the shabby entrance to a cheap appartment building. One wondered whether this was the Cockroach Embassy.
In her very first lines, Minnie Driver delivers a thudding, imperfect imitation of a Canuck accent (something like "Let's go OAT and ABOAT this evening.") I guffawed, but Americans will not even notice these things. Happily, Minnie abandons the local color after about 5 minutes.
John Hurt's performance is odd; I found it earnest, but hard to accept, perhaps because his lines were trite. Chaykin is quite superb.
The soundtrack is also Canadian. Taste will determine how you feel about it, but I found it occasionally effective and occasionally melodramatic, but always interesting.
Marginal characters are often amateurish. This film seems to be a rare gem of a performance set into a larger ornament made of lead.
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