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CROUPIER

SYNOPSIS:
Jack (Clive Owen) is a struggling young writer who uses his father's connections to get a job running a roulette wheel at a casino. There he meets several interesting characters, including two women: Bella (Kate Hardie) a sullen fellow croupier who used to work as a prostitute, and Jani (Alex Kingston) who like Jack has immigrated to England from South Africa. The conditions of Jack's employment forbid him to associate with either colleagues or customers after hours, but he's soon tempted to break the rules in more ways than one.


Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A throwback to the early 60s in style but with contemporary points of view, Croupier is seemingly about the writer/croupier metaphor (see Jake Wilsonís review below) but for me itís morally and psychologivcally about Jackís character. Itís as if Clive Owen was a reincarnation of Alain Delon or a Jean Paul Belmondo and his world view was being offered and opened up to us through the combination of the setting and his inner conflicts. Real life on screen, sort of thing, in ECU (Extreme Close Up). The only thing that I miss here is a more high-level sexual scenario - although not by much. While the film has a plot and generates genuine tension with that, it is ultimately satisfying for its character insights Ė and not only Jackís. Gina McKee (so good in Wonderland) is again tremendously effective in creating a nuanced, fascinating character with great strengths and needs, drawing empathy from us with every glance. Mike Hodges sets up the time and place of the story with ease, and slips us seamlessly into the London casino milieu. Attention to detail in things like extras casting pays off well, and the narration adds a vital inner voice that completes the cinematic task. Entertaining and filmic, Croupier is a highly accessible mix of light and noir.

Review by Louise Keller:
Croupier is astonishing. A thriller, a mystery, a story of duality; it's stylish, compelling and filled with psychological edge and surprise. Cleverly structured with a piercing voice-over narration that reflects conscience, we are sucked into the ever-spinning world of gambling where the odds are always against us. It's not about winning, but about being in control. A multi-layered tale of intrigue and character revelation, Mike Hodges' measured direction and Paul Mayersberg's cleverly structured script deliver a brilliant mix of edgy story telling. Rich in complexity and intelligence, this is a story about obsession. There's a constant undercurrent of uncertainty throughout, and as the protagonist finds his way through the maze of surrounding characters, we almost feel as though we need to hold our breath. Clive Owen gives an illustrious performance that dazzles, intrigues, shocks and charms. Owen has the ability to reveal everything and nothing all at once. Charismatic with a sense of mystery, he creates a very real and exciting character; he is James Bond in a tux and his vodka is definitely not shaken or stirred. All the cast is terrific: Gina McKee (poignant), Kate Hardie (startling), and Alex Kingston (a knockout) as the three women that impact on Jack's life. Croupier is a winner, an original and mesmerising spin of the roulette wheel that deals up some highly unexpected cards.

Review by Jake Wilson:
A mannered parable about solipsism disguised as a hardboiled crime story: the minimal violence is mainly kept off screen, while Jack's voiceover narration, supposedly part of a novel he's writing, suggests that much of the action may be unfolding inside his head. Jack's two jobs are suggestive metaphors for each other - both writers and croupiers can be seen as voyeurs, manipulating the fates of others while remaining passive and detached. Both professions also call for a certain virtuosity: among the best things in Croupier are the close-up sequences, presumably using a body double, where Jack's fingers show off their acrobatic skill, shuffling cards or juggling counters at high speed. Embodied by Craig Owen as a cadaverous dandy in the Jude Law mold, Jack presides over the blackjack table with impeccable style and secret contempt. Gamblers are born losers, he figures, while as a croupier the odds will always be on his side... It's the misguided confidence of a classic fall guy, yet the director, Mike Hodges, seems to admire and share Jack's chilly view of humanity. A flashy but never expansive stylist, Hodges shows a liking for hard reflective surfaces and sharp metallic noises, from the clatter of gambling chips on a table to the yelps of a brainless upper-class couple bonking in the next room. This impassive crispness, tied to the pulp metaphysics of Paul Maylesberg's script, occasionally suggests a cynical B-movie variation on Robert Bresson's Pickpocket - another quasi-thriller about a solitary, amoral hero whose virtuso sleight-of-hand skills can't save him from himself. Needless to say, Hodges and Maylesberg don't share Bresson's interest in redemption, but I was hoping they'd manage to tie the plot threads together more convincingly: the ending is far-fetched and unsatisfying by any standards. Not a major film by any means, but if you're interested in eccentric, low-key thrillers, perhaps worth checking out.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

CROUPIER (M)
(UK)

CAST: Clive Owen, Kate Hardie, Alex Kingston, Gina McKee, Alexander Morton, Paul Reynolds, Nick Redding

PRODUCERS: Jonathan Cavendish

DIRECTOR: Mike Hodges

SCRIPT: Paul Mayersberg

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mike Garfath

EDITOR: Les Healey

MUSIC: Simon Fisher Turner

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jon Bunker

RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: New Vision

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 12, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Kaleidoscope

VIDEO RELEASE: March 18, 2002







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