Starring: Clive Owen, Alex Kingston, Nicholas Ball, Gina McKee, Alexander Morton, Paul Reynolds
Director: Mike Hodges
Jack (Owen) is a struggling, aspiring writer who reluctantly follows the suggestion of his father (Ball) and accepts the job as a croupier in a London casino. His girlfriend Marion (McKee), whose flat he lives in, is not keen on his job and sees him become moodier and more detached over time.
Despite being one of the few straight croupiers left, Jack soon finds himself surrounded by corruption whether it be his boss (Morton) cocky croupier, Matt (Reynolds), the sexually provocative Bella (Hardie ) or South African gambler Jani (Kingston). But his new situation helps remove Jack’s writers block and as his novel develops, he soon finds himself assuming the lead role in his book.
Anyone who saw the uninspiring trailer for “Croupier” might be surprised at just how entertaining and engrossing the movie turned out to be. Clive Owen’s tired and uncharasmatic portrayal of Jack is spot on. A world-weary character such as this can become a chore and tiresome to watch (cf Dougray’s Scott turn as Tom Jericho in “Enigma”) but he conveys enough intrigue to keep you watching and, importantly, liking him. Alex Kingston and Gina McKee add excellent support as the enigmatic femme fatale (perhaps) and the loyal but exasperated girlfriend respectively.
Writer Paul Mayersberg has not really put anything top notch out before, but his story is gripping and has enough slight twists to keep it interesting and almost mysterious. Hodges brings a swiftly-told, but well paced unfurling yarn to the screen, introducing the characters idiosyncrasies with great timing (Marion’s former employment and Jack’s father’s history, for example). The end-of-movie payoff is sufficiently satisfying to make it all more than worth while.