5.5/10
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29 user 10 critic

Born to Win (1971)

A smart-mouthed junkie and loser known as J.J. (George Segal) spends his days looking for just "one more fix".

Director:

Ivan Passer

Writers:

David Scott Milton (screenplay), Ivan Passer (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
George Segal ... J
Paula Prentiss ... Veronica
Karen Black ... Parm
Jay Fletcher Jay Fletcher ... Billy Dynamite
Hector Elizondo ... Vivian
Robert De Niro ... Danny (as Robert DeNiro)
Ed Madsen Ed Madsen ... Detective
Marcia Jean Kurtz ... Marlene
Irving Selbst Irving Selbst ... Stanley
Tim Pelt Tim Pelt ... Little Davey
José Pérez José Pérez ... Junior Conception (as Jose Perez)
Sylvia Syms Sylvia Syms ... Cashier (as Sylvia Simms)
Jack Hollander Jack Hollander ... Harry
Alex Colon ... Bus Boy
Max Brandt Max Brandt ... Store Clerk
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Storyline

J.J., a former New York City hairdresser, commits petty crimes, often with his friend Billy Dynamite, to support his drug habit. He's not very good at it, with something often going wrong. One of J.J.'s more regular gigs is working as a mule for Vivian - who J.J. calls Geek Man to Vivian's chagrin - a pimp for who J.J.'s ex-wife, Veronica, also a junkie, now hustles also to support her habit. J.J.'s life has the potential to change the result of two encounters. One is with a pair of NYPD narcs who have him over a barrel concerning his drug use and what they want out of him to make a drug conviction go away. Two is with a young woman named Parm who he meets in the act of one of his crimes. J.J. and Parm enter into a relationship, the love and support within that makes J.J. want to come out on top for once in his life. Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Their story is written on his arm. If they can get a grip on each other, maybe they can turn their lives around.

Genres:

Comedy | Crime | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 July 1972 (Denmark) See more »

Also Known As:

Scraping Bottom See more »

Filming Locations:

New York, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film was chosen to be screened at the New York Film Festival in October 1971. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
J: They same I'm a charmer... that I charm the people I hustle. Well, that comes after dealing with women, after hairdressing. I love to dress hair! But being that I know what to do, being that I'm hip enough to know, I do it!
See more »

Alternate Versions

The budget video releases of this film cut the film by approximately four minutes. Among the missing footage: Segal and Prentiss putting tourniquets on in a back room of the nightclub in preparation for taking heroin, an exchange involving Karen Black's character's breast size (and a retort involving Segal's breast size), an extension of the scene featuring Segal in the pink robe giving the "up-yours" sign to the girl on the balcony, dialogue when Black and Segal are making love, and assorted others. A 35mm print screened at New York's Museum of Modern Art in March 2009 retains these scenes. The video prints have been seemingly TV-edited for objectionable content. See more »

Connections

References Sudden Terror (1970) See more »

Soundtracks

Ooh Poo Pah Doo
Written by Jessie Hill (uncredited)
Performed by Ike Turner and Tina Turner
See more »

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User Reviews

Better than you'd think
16 November 1998 | by SpearinSee all my reviews

It's interesting to see something as grainy and badly lit as this still bubble to the surface once in a while, particularly in this age of independent films produced on multi-million dollar budgets. This one obviously wasn't; from the outset, with its dated music and hokey effects, you can be sure you're in for low-tech.

What sets Born to Win apart is its solid writing and steady, well-thought out performances. George Seagal, who, strangely, might be best remembered as a cliche on the old Tonight Show, has his character down cold. Karen Black is winning, and with the two of them in the lead, the rest of the movie skims along well. I found myself ignoring the stiff camera work and the Sly and the Family Stone-styled soundtrack to actually watch actors act, to see them sometimes apparently ad-lib entire sequences and do it with gusto.

De Niro is too young for the part in which he's cast, and it shows. He looks like a child and has none of the edge we associate with his later performances. By Taxi Driver he'd toughened up, lost the baby-fat and the boy-next-door haircut. Born to Win should be the movie that argues against Seagal and Black being marginalized in film history as also-rans--Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Stiller would both do well to take a look at this before they try another independent, just to see what people of their caliber were doing 30 years ago with nothing more than a cheap camera, a couple of lights and a boom mic. Well done.


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