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BORN TO WIN (director/writer: Ivan Passer; screenwriter: David Scott Milton; cinematographers: Jack Priestley/ Richard Kratina; editor: Ralph Rosenblum; music: William S. Fischer; cast: George Segal (J), Paula Prentiss (Veronica), Karen Black (Parm), Jay Fletcher (Billy Dynamite), Hector Elizondo (The Geek), Sylvia Syms (Cashier), Marcia Jean Kurtz (Marlene), Robert De Niro (Danny), Burt Young (Hood), Ed Madsen (Detective); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Philip Langner,; MoMedia (United Artists); 1971)
Uneven cynical drama about the NYC hard-drug scene.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This uneven cynical drama about the NYC hard-drug scene is the American debut for Czech New Wave director Ivan Passer(“Intimate Lighting”/”Cutter’s Way”/”Nomad”). He co-writes the script with David Scott Milton, who never fully develop their unpleasant junkie lead character played by George Segal. Robert De Niro, before he was a star, was onscreen for about ten minutes playing a cop and never gave any indication of his later success.

The ex-hairdresser, shaggy-haired, middle-aged, Times Square frequenter, J (George Segal), can’t kick his $100 a day heroin addiction. J is delusional and a whiner, who doesn’t generate much sympathy even when unfairly pushed around.

J begins a relationship with the straight but kooky Parm (Karen Black) after trying to steal her car. It was hard to swallow this contrived relationship, just as it was hard to take the rest of this gloomy pic seriously. Segal tries to make a go of it, but it’s all in vain. There’s nothing in his character that gets flushed out that is of interest. The pic is not a total waste because of a few scenes that are both menacing and comical. The scene where Segal hides in a laundromat from a cop made me laugh the most. While the scene where he hides in his dealer’s bedroom is the most bizarre, as he tries to escape by flashing in the nude to attract his neighbors so they will call the cops.

Paula Prentiss is underused in a small part playing Segal’s addict ex-wife.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”