Croupier (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner05/06/2001

Three stars out of five
Running time: 93 mins

Back-from-the-dead thriller from the director of ‘Get Carter’ – a well-acted, atmospheric film that’s hampered by some bad dialogue and a routine plot, but is still worth watching.

If Croupier seems somehow familiar, you may remember it from its initial release two years ago, when it was quietly dumped out onto a handful of screens in central London, then dropped before anyone really had a chance to see it.

Luckily, however, the American release went slightly better and it became a modest arthouse hit Stateside, attracting rave reviews and a decent audience. And now, in what almost seems like an apology for not believing in it last time round, it’s getting a decent re-release here and we can finally judge for ourselves.

The plot is pretty simple. Clive Owen plays Jack Manfred, a would-be novelist in need of material. His deadbeat father (currently hiding out on the Costa del Sol) pulls a few strings and lands him a job at a late-night casino, a sleazy dive of a place where you can practically taste the cigarette smoke in the air.

He soon has no shortage of characters and material for his book, and finds himself involved with a shady fellow croupier (Paul Reynolds), oddly sexy co-worker Bella (Kate Hardie) and mysteriously attractive client Jani (Alex Kingston). Meanwhile, the job and its weird hours start to take their toll on both Jack, his novel and his relationship with his girlfriend (Gina McKee).

Where the film scores most highly is in both the acting and its attention to detail. The three women are particularly good and the film also has a healthy regard for nudity which should do it no harm at all.

It’s the locations that really stand out though – from the smoke-filled casino to Jack’s dingy basement flat, to a private Soho club, there’s a real sense of a lived-in, seedy atmosphere to these places that adds considerably to the film.

What works less well is the occasionally cringe-makingly bad dialogue (e.g Gina McKee shouting "I’m your CONSCIENCE, Jack!" and so on). Arguably, this is deliberate and meant to illustrate the novel Jack’s writing, but this only works if it’s clearly set apart from the rest of the film’s dialogue.

In fact, the entire film could be viewed as fiction, with all the dramatic events merely the events of the novel, although the film itself never explicitly raises that possibility. It has to be said, also, that although fitting for a film about a novelist, the third-person narrative does grate after a while.

In general, however, the film definitely deserves the second chance it’s been given. You might see the ending coming a mile away, but the combination of the acting and the feel for atmosphere more than make up for the occasional lapse in dialogue. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 21/08/2018 21:01

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