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Croupier (1998)

Der Croupier (Germany)

Hang On Tightly... Let Go Lightly

Directed by:

Mike Hodges

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 94 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: France, United Kingdom, Germany, Ireland

Gambling, as we all know, is a mug’s game. But what about being the person who helps the mugs play? ‘Croupier’, as you might have guessed from the title, is about just such a bloke. Jack Manfred (Clive Owen) is a novelist at heart, but when the writing work starts to dry up, he reluctantly takes the advice of his Peter Stringfellow-like dad (Nicholas Ball) and takes a job in the local casino.

From there on in Jack becomes absorbed in a seedy, corrupt underworld of cheating (in more ways than one) and occasional violence. Little wonder, then, that girlfriend Marion (Gina McKee – who some of you may remember as one of the roving reporters in the splendiferous ‘Brass Eye’) starts to grow more than a little tetchy.

Jack’s a cold fellow who, with his history of bleached hair and dodgy hats, can be more than a little difficult to relate to. Thankfully though, we’re allowed access to his mind through an innovatively-written third person narration: at times he thinks he’s not Jack but Jake, the lead character in the new novel he’s dreaming up. Jake, by the way, is also a croupier who gets dragged into the criminal world. Wonder where Jack got that idea from, eh?

These days it’s become something of a novelty to see a British crime movie that doesn’t revolve around either Mockney wide-boys or insipid nightclub pill-poppers – but ‘Croupier’ was released a full two months before ‘Lock, Stock, etc’, and therefore also before the floodgates opened. It’s a quiet, brooding film (no real surprise with Owen involved), but it’s also remarkably tense for a tale in which very little of genuine interest actually happens. That such uneventful material can turn out to be anywhere near as gripping as this is testament to the skills of hit-and-miss Brit director Mike Hodges (his eclectic CV includes such extremes as ‘Get Carter’ and ‘Flash Gordon’) – but fans of the brasher fair served up by Guy Ritchie and co may find it an acquired taste.

It's Got: Straight vodka.

It Needs: Some Coke?

DVD Extras Just one measly trailer. DVD Extras Rating: 1/10

Alternatives:

Casino, Ripley's Game, Rounders, The Good Thief

Summary

‘Casino’ minus the glamour – and the American accents. Worth seeing.

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