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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Born To Win (1971)

A hairdresser (George Segal) turned junkie and just out of prison acts as a "bag man" for a dealer (Hector Elizondo). When he meets a free spirit (Karen Black), he thinks he wants to turn his life around but despite the film's title (which is tattooed on Segal's needle marked arm), he's a loser. The American film debut of the Czech director Ivan Passer (LOVES OF A BLONDE) is an uneven vehicle that serves as a showcase for Segal's sensational performance. So many years have passed since his salad days that it's easy to forget what a terrific actor Segal was. Passer's film is rather audacious in that it balances out broad comedy with the horror of the underbelly of drug addicts and dealers, pimps, hookers, corrupt cops etc. and it actually works. Jay Fletcher as Segal's junkie pal also delivers a nicely detailed performance. It's the female characters where Passer and his co-screenwriter David Scott Milton mess up. Black's hippy dippy rich girl doesn't make much sense and her scenes with Segal slow down the film. On the other hand, Paula Prentiss as Segal's junkie ex-wife reduced to turning tricks is potentially more interesting but Prentiss isn't given much screen time to develop her character. There's a highly effective jazz score by William Fischer. With a young Robert De Niro as a cop, Burt Young and Marcia Jean Kurtz.

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