J. (George Segal, Where’s Poppa?) was a hairdresser until his escalating heroin addiction broke up his family and overtook his life. In filmmaker Ivan Passer’s Fun City-set Born to Win, J. and his friend and fellow junkie Billy Dynamite (Jay Fletcher, Foxy Brown), are reduced to running scams all over town together, desperately angling for their next fix. When a free-spirited young woman (Karen Black, Easy Rider) falls for J., it seems they might have a chance to escape this bleak world together, but J.’s addiction means they are never too far from the reach of a merciless drug dealer and pimp (Hector Elizondo, The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3) and a relentless narcotics cop (Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver). In the supporting cast, are Paula Prentiss (The Stepford Wives) as J.’s estranged wife, who turns tricks to support her habit, and, in one of his first roles, Burt Young (Rocky) as a hoodlum.
After directing his acclaimed debut film Intimate Lighting in his native Czechoslovakia, Passer fled to America, following the Warsaw Pact invasion of his homeland. He teamed with playwright and novelist David Scott Milton and producer-star Segal to make Born to Win, his first English-language film. Over fifty years after its initial release, it stands as one of the quintessential and most influential cinematic portrayals of the down-and-out New York City of the early 1970s, and some of its less fortunate inhabitants. For this first-ever Blu-ray release, Born to Win has been restored in 2K from its 35mm interpositive, beautifully preserving the film’s indelible images of a New York that otherwise exists only in our memories.