5.6/10
1,395
28 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
Karen Black ... Parm
Paula Prentiss ... Veronica
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

Some of the characters in the film were played by actual New York City junkies at the time, people who Writer and Director Ivan Passer encountered while researching the film. 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

Ballad in C
Written by Karen Black
Sung by Karen Black
See more »

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User Reviews

better than you might think
20 July 2003 | by kubrickfan-1See all my reviews

Poor JJ, every time he scores some junk or pulls a job he gets screwed over. It's not easy being a junkie, but it CAN be funny!! This movie is listed as a drama but it flows like a well made comedy. If you can overlook the so-so editing, lighting, and cinematography you will be able to relax and enjoy an extremely well acted film. The dialogue is superb. George Segal is in top form as JJ, a Heroin addict on the streets of NYC in 1971. Robert De Niro has a supporting role as an undercover vice cop. I haven't looked it up yet but I assume that this is one of De Niro's first films as his name doesn't appear in the credits until about the halfway point. De Niro does the best he can with the small role he's given but keep in mind that this isn't a De Niro film. The real joy in this movie is George Segal's performance as JJ. He plays an excellent dope-fiend. Both JJ and Billy Dynamite (Jay Fletcher) are in love with the needle. Billy Dynamite put it best: "It's like we have a purpose in life. Every morning we wake up and know EXACTLY what we're gonna do... hustle up another bag!!!... "I wouldn't trade this life for nothing man... Nothing!!" It's almost as if he genuinely loves being an an addict. JJ (Segal) has been up to no good and is afraid someone might try to pass him a hotshot. A "hotshot" is a shot of heroin that the dealer has cut with strychnine or battery acid. The sole purpose of giving someone a hotshot is kill them, and JJ has a couple of dealers that would like to see him dead. Does JJ get the hotshot... or not??? I won't tell. Check it out and see for yourself!

******** (8 out of 10 stars)


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