Canada’s unique contributions to gambling movie history

Filmmakers and movie-goers have always had a fascination with the world of the casino. It’s one of the ever-present themes in James Bond films throughout the years – as well as the obvious Casino Royale, 007 also ordered his famous Martini in casinos in Dr No, Diamonds are Forever, Thunderball and Licence to Kill, to name but a few. Then there is the Ocean’s 11 series, featuring its stellar cast and traditional caper-style plotlines.


These offerings, from the UK and US film industries might be the most familiar, but Canada has also dipped a toe into this hugely popular movie theme with some impressive results. These days, the likes of Leo Vegas free spins Canada have made casino games familiar to all of us. So what better time to take a look at some of Canada’s best casino movies from recent years?


Owning Mahowny


Released in 2003, this thought-provoking movie was directed by Richard Kwietniowski and is based on the real-life tale of Brian Molony, a clerk at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, who embezzled more than $10 million in the space of just 18 months to feed his spiraling gambling habit.


The movie’s cast list reads like a who’s who of Hollywood A-listers of the time. Minnie Driver and the late great John Hurt play key roles, but it is the wonderful Philip Seymour Hoffman who really steals the show in the title role.


The movie focuses on the human side of the story and we accompany Seymour Hoffman’s character on his downward spiral. Despite being rated by film critic Robert Ebert as one of the best films of the 2003, Owning Mahowny was a financial flop, recouping only a tenth of its $10 million at the box office.


The Last Casino


A year after Owning Mahowny appeared in the movie theaters, The Last Casino (La Mise Finale) was released on The Movie Network. The story is a familiar one and borrows heavily from the famous incident surrounding the MIT blackjack team. If you have seen the 2008 Kevin Spacey movie 21, you will know what to expect, but Canadian director Pierre Gill told the story first, and some might even say he told it better.


As a made-for-TV movie, this obviously doesn’t have the big names or the big budget of 21, but if you want to understand what really happened and get to the truth behind the myths of card counting, this movie needs to be on your watch list.


Cold Deck

Cold Deck was the first major film from Toronto director Zack Bernbaum. While it had only limited big-screen exposure in 2015, the movie is now enjoying an extended run on Netflix, where it has acquired something of a cult following. It tells the story of Bobby, an aspiring poker player, who manages to buy in to one of the biggest games on the underground circuit. In the age of WSOP, in which poker pros have more in common with sports stars than anything else, this low-budget thriller takes us back to a gritty, bygone age.

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