Born to Win (1971)

George Segal, Paula Prentiss, Karen Black, Jay Fletcher,
A smart-mouthed junkie and loser known as J.J. (George Segal) spends his days looking for just "one more fix".
  • 5.7 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • David Scott Milton, Writer:
  • Ivan Passer, Director:
  • Philip Langner, Producer:

All subtitles:

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7 / 10

The seventies' bleakest--and one of the best

One of the great joys of being a movie addict is loving unreasonably. There's probably no rational way to convey my adoration for this 1971 Ivan Passer movie, which was made for nothing back in the day when movies like this actually could get made and released--today, it'd be shot on digital video in someone's basement and never see the light of day. George Segal gives one of the performances of his career as J, a hairdresser turned heroin addict who vamps his way through the day with a torrent of improvised Lenny Bruce hipsterisms. Karen Black is the "straight," broken girl who falls in love with him for no good reason except that he's broken too--I can't think of a more haunting moment in a movie romance than the one where she drops him off in midtown Manhattan to score dope and implores, "J--remember to come back home." The movie fleetly conveys the romance, the soft-edgedness and wombiness of heroin--and then in short order takes you all the way down to the bitterest consequences. And it reminds you of the beauties of hard-knuckle, dirty-formica naturalism--pleasures unavailable to more stylized or more conceptual pictures. Has there ever been an actress as free as Karen Black? The way she lifts up ten fingers, over and over again, to count off the number of men she's slept with; or the strange little hair-bite she does when she oaths her love to Segal on the beach--everything is as fresh and unaffected and right as if it were playing out in your living room right this minute. The locations, the smoky, salty, funereal-blues soundtrack--Ivan Passer can't put a foot wrong in this movie. Why is this guy not being given all the work in the world? And why is this movie not acclaimed a masterpiece in a world where rusty chestnuts by Rafelson and Bogdanovich are still held in high esteem?

7 / 10

Life on the Dark Side

This is one of those movies where there isn't much to pull for. Like Taxi Driver, it takes place in a cesspool. Those who are trapped in their lives have no place to go. The die is cast and that's it. George Segal does an excellent performance as a small time addict who is powerless to overcome what he has become. He hooks up with Karen Black, who accepts him for what he is. She is the one bright spot in his existence. But the power of the drug world has its tentacles in him and no matter how happy he may feel, he can't move from the addiction. The first part of the movie shows his day to day existence. He seems like a good man. He has a kindness in him that comes through on his face. When confronted, he becomes really passive and powerless. The big boys don't see him as a player. There are also a couple of cops who want to use him, one of them being a young DeNiro. His relationship with Black is doomed (by the way, she comes across as a pretty interesting character) because when it is a contest between the drugs and her, she is going to come in a distant second, even thought intellectually, it sounds pretty sad. Good acting but don't expect an uplifting event. George Segal was really a hot actor at this time, even in a minor picture like this shows his talents.

5 / 10

Not an entirely convincing vehicle for George Segal

George Segal plays Times Square junkie "J", a smack addict who is set up for a fall by his supplier, a slick street hustler named Vivian (Hector Elizondo). He lives to see another day, but is approached by two narcotics cops to put the frame on Vivian or do serious time. Czech director Ivan Passer's first American film was a personal project for Segal, whose fledgling production company put the deal together (it was originally a very-off Off-Broadway play entitled "Scraping Bottom" by David Scott Milton, who shares the screenplay credit with Passer). While the character of "J" is certainly a change of pace for the star, Segal still looks like a fuzzy, hurt-eyed hamster out to tug at our heartstrings. One gets the impression Segal was willing to go all the way with this material, but that maybe someone talked him into softening this low-life portrait; he's too clear in his thinking, in his decision-making and in his dealings with the cops to make a truly convincing junkie. There's talent all around Segal, including Paula Prentiss as another addict, Karen Black as Segal's square girlfriend, Robert DeNiro as a narc and Burt Young as a hood, but it's really Elizondo's picture. Even though Passer filmed on the gritty streets of New York City, it is Elizondo who provides the movie with its dash of dangerously cool authenticity. ** from ****

10 / 10

'Born To Win, A Gem!

'BORN TO WIN' Is a Downbeat, but Somewhat very funny look at drug addicts, in New York, The ever Excellent George Segal, plays JJ a former Hairdresser,Who is fixed on heroin,and with him on his quest for the perfect fix is his pal played by Jay Fletcer,

One night on the streets JJ is attempting to steal a car,but is amusingly caught by the owner who is played by the free spirited Karen Black,who brings Segal home together the pair fall for each other despite Segal's, desperate Heroin ridden antics,

Cult Favorite Paula Prentiss,(The Original Stepford Wives) plays JJ's former wife who is Highly strung, unfortunately she becomes property of the local pimp and supplier 'geek' played by Hector Elizondo,

One scene in this classic that's worth mentioning is Segal's superb knack for physical comedy is the 'take your clothes off' scene, that see's Segal, at the mercy of the supplier's the scene where Segal attempts to get the attention of the teenager across at the adjacent apartment is a hoot! And Segal's subsequent chase clad only in a robe is hilarious! A Very Young Robert De' Niro, plays an undercover cop out to bust JJ,

Don't be fooled by the many DVD's available of this classic with 'De Niro on the cover Segal is the Star!

9 / 10

Classic early Passer and G. Segal!

This TOTALLY, except for the cool critics (including Pauline Kael), was written off by a bad check, probably because it was another foreign director (like Milos Forman) cashing in on the real GOLDEN AGE of cinema (for America, for sure). That stuff doesn't matter. George Segal, one of the genius actors of the late 60's and 70's, gives an incredible performance as "J" the junkie, AFTER establishing himself as the comic everyman for five years. He's already done King Rat in 1965 and was nominated in 1966 for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, I won't even list this dude's accomplishments in a VERY timely era and film space and he was very good. Paula Prentiss (AS ALWAYS) is wonderful, Hector Elizondo, Karen Black and a host of New York unknown stage actors will blow you away with this film. They've changed the title. OH, I FORGOT, Robert DeNiro is GREAT in this in a small role (but a good one).

Nobody cares about junkies ...and why should they? This film isn't about street fixers; it's about New York City in that time period. It's just a wonderful film. It has everything the other COOL films of the 70's had, except marketing - and it blows away Panic in Needle Park with Pacino and Kitty Wynn (a good film), but the message wasn't LEFT or RIGHT enough, even to the people who appreciated that great era of AMERICAN films and this one (like many) was directed by a FOREIGNER (a great director). I'm just babbling here now; Find this film; I found it on Video and I hope to God it's on DVD by now. It's a smooth trail of NYC hopeful desperation at the bottom of that barrel, but you won't regret the trip. An 8 out of 10. Best performance = George Segal. Find it, if you're interested in great movies of that era that didn't make a million bucks!