A writer treats his mental block by taking an eye-opening job at the gambling tables in the sharp British drama "Croupier."
By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
Heavy on style and seductiveness, the British film "Croupier" is one of those unassuming Channel Four franchises that creeps out of nowhere and provides a thought-provoking alternative to the blather of Hollywood's
In Mike Hodges' film, a blocked writer (expertly played by Clive Owen) takes a temporary job as a croupier in a London casino to make ends meet and soon becomes drawn into the complexities of gambling, gamesmanship,
and goodness knows what else. It's a simple enough storyline but it's given remarkable depth by writer Paul Mayersberg and significant worth by its stellar cast, mostly unknowns on this side of the Atlantic (although the
croupier's girlfriend, played by Gina McKee, will be recognized from "Notting Hill").
|Directed by: Mike Hodges.|
Written by: Paul Mayersburg.
Cast: Clive Owen, Jack Manfred, Kate Hardie, Alex Kingston, Gina McKee, Nicholas Ball.
Cinematography: Michael Garfath.
Related links: All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
Owen, handsome as all get-out with his jet-black hair and matching tux, commands the film with a smoky, smoldering performance that's matched only by his own smoky voiceover, oftentimes nicely at odds with or second-guessing the narrative, and a smooth jazz scoreline by Simon Fisher Turner.
"Croupier" is more a character study than a card-sharp drama, yet Hodges scores some winning touchdowns in the casino proper. Here the hush of a dealt card and the chink of one chip against another provide delicate
soundscapes that contrast with the glam of the ensuing roughness. Good stuff this, as Jack (Owen), who was raised in South Africa and did some dealing there, soon regains his wonderlust for watching people lose as he tries
to walk the straight and narrow.
But it's a wicked twisted world out there where temptations are ripe and commonplace, more frequent, certainly, than the turn of a friendly card.
|MAY 21, 2000|
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