Croupier

dir Mike Hodges; scr Paul Mayersberg
with Clive Owen, Gina McKee, Alex Kingston, Kate Hardie, Nicholas Ball, Nick Reding, Paul Reynolds, Alexander Morton, Ozzie Yue, Ciro De Chiara, David Hamilton, Carol Davis
FilmFour 97/UK-Germany 3 out of 5 stars


Review by Rich Cline
An intriguing blending of "fact" and "fiction", Croupier tells the story of a novelist/card dealer from his own point of view ... as if his life was a novel. Jack narrates the film in the third person, and we're never quite sure how much of what happens can be taken at face value. To make it even more interesting: neither is he.

Jack Manfred (Owen) lives in a basement flat in London with his doting ex-cop girlfriend (Notting Hill's McKee). He wants to write a novel, but feels uninspired by the options presented by a friend (Reding) in the publishing business. Then his dad (Ball) rings from home in South Africa with a job tip--a London casino is looking for a trained dealer, and Jack has considerable experience. He gets the job and is soon enmeshed the lives of coworkers (Hardie and Reynolds) and a gambler (ER's Kingston) who has hit the skids and needs his help.

The complex story moves at an unusual (and somewhat uneven) pace, and much of the dialogue sounds like it comes straight from a pulp bestseller. But that's precisely the point. The performances are all intriguing and textured and Hodges gives the film a seedy veneer that works perfectly with the rough-edged characters and darkly shaded goings on. Also, Mayersberg's script is full of unexpected events, layered dialogue and clever characters. The problem is that the film never engages emotionally, despite some rather startling twists of fate. It merely remains fascinating and quirky, kind of like reading an overwritten novel.

[15--themes, language, sexual situations, violence] 24.Jun.99
UK release 18.Jun.99; US release 21.Apr.00

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READER REVIEWS

"This film is one of the best I've seen this year so far, and certainly the best of the recent British crime film cycle. The central character of Jack (Owen) is an impressive example of how a writer's mind really works and is acted perfectly. An excellent addition to classics such as Get Carter and The Long Good Friday." J Lowe, London 24.Jun.01

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1999 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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