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Four Gambling Films Shot in Canada

Movies about gambling are steeped in drama because they are, by their very nature, about risk. Something is exciting about watching someone put everything on the line hoping for that one big score, beat the casino, or triumph over a known cheater. It is why films such as Maverick (1994), Ocean’s Eleven (2001), and The Cincinnati Kid (1965) have such a cult following. 


Canada may not be the first country that springs to mind when thinking about gambling movies because it lacks an Atlantic City or Las Vegas. However, several gambling movies have been shot in Canada over the years, including the following four films you are about to learn a snippet about.


Owning Mahowny (2003)

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Gambling-related films gain an extra edge when based on a true story, like Owning Mahowny. Written by Maurice Chauvet and directed by Richard Kwietniowski, Owning Mahowny is based on the true story of Brian Molony. He worked as a manager at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Molony managed to embezzle more than $10 million from his employers in only 18 months of employment. Molony had a gambling addiction and came up with creative accountancy ways to fund that addiction. He did not place bets with the biggest online betting sites but instead frequented Atlantic City, where he played for high-stakes.


The late Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Dan Mahowny, who authorities eventually catch up with, prosecute, and sentence him to six years imprisonment. 


Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 79%, while Robert Ebert said Hoffman’s performance is “a masterpiece of discipline and precision.”


Lucky Girl (2001)


The 2001 film Lucky Girl was shot entirely in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and features Elisha Cuthbert, of “24” fame, portraying Kaitlyn Palmerston, a young woman who becomes entangled in a world of gambling.


The film begins with an ecstatic Kaitlyn having won a prize on a lottery ticket. It comes at an ideal time because Kaitlyn and her friends are saving for a trip to Amsterdam. Feeling lucky, hence the film’s title, Kaitlyn begins sports betting to raise money for the upcoming trip. However, she starts losing money and behaves increasingly erratically, including stealing her mother’s credit card and borrowing from a shady loan shark to feed her worsening addiction to internet gambling.


John Fawcett directed the film from John Frizzell’s story. 


The Last Casino (2004)


The Last Casino is a French-language Canadian drama also known by its French title, La Mise Finale. Greg Drummett, Lorraine Richard, and Madeleine Henri produced the movie while Pierre Gill was the film’s director.


The film draws heavily from the famous story of the MIT Blackjack Team, a group of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who Bill Kaplan trained to card count at the blackjack table. Kaplan devised a mathematics model to assist the group in beating the casino.


Charles Martin Smith plays Barnes, a man who gets into $100,000 debt. Barnes gets caught card counting at the blackjack table as he attempts to gamble his way to repay his debt, so he trains a trio of students to play for him. There are plenty of twists and turns, in addition to an ample helping of tension throughout.


Cold Deck (2015)


Cold Deck is a 2015 Canadian thriller written by Stefano Gallo, Jason LaPeyre, and Slater Jewell-Kempker, and directed by Zack Bernbaum. Gallo stars in the movie, playing a compulsive gambler called Bobby. Bobby hits a losing streak and is desperate for money, so desperate that he agrees to rob a high-stakes poker game for a local underworld figure.


Like poker, the film focuses on deception and lies (bluffs). It was not well-received, with The Globe and Mail describing it as “a poker-based heist film that deals in cliches.” However, it is a cool indie flick that is worth your time if you do not want to watch something too deep.


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