Movie of the Week: ‘Croupier’

“Croupier” (1998) – Jack Manfred (Clive Owen) is a writer, a struggling one.  Yes, that’s the seemingly eternal and cliché story for writers, but there’s a long thread of truth and history with such claims.  While Jack grapples with putting pen to paper or typing on his antiquated (by 2022 standards) word processor, his dad finds him a lead for a job.   Jack interviews for a card dealer and roulette position, a croupier, at London’s Golden Lion Casino.  It’s a hot spot that looks fancy on the surface, but Jack’s interview in Mr. Reynolds’ (Alexander Morton) office eerily resembles Frank’s (Robert Loggia) from “Scarface” (1983), and we know how that movie ends. 

But I digress.

Jack Manfred (Clive Owen)

Anyways, Jack gets the gig, and at 450 quid a week, he can help pay the bills with and for his live-in girlfriend, Marion (Gina McKee), and director Mike Hodges spins our lead in an intriguing small-time crime noir.  Over the 94-minute runtime, Owen is everywhere and in almost every shot on the screen.  He also doubles as a narrator and refers to himself in the third person throughout the picture, but there’s an appropriate and apparent reason, but it won’t be revealed here. 

What’s obvious is that Owen shines in this role as this whip-smart, sometimes-cynical, and straight-arrow croupier.  Jack is a guy who plays by the rules and bucks temptation, even though he dreams of a better life. 

Marion Nell (Gina McKee)

For now, he works with absolute efficiency in taking people’s money and looking out for Number One.  Jack may be a model employee, but he’s not a perfect human being.  He’s edgy and occasionally irritable as he walks on the edge between worker bee-altruism and his flawed environment. 

“Croupier” is Owen’s breakout film, and with his cool demeanor, good looks, and frequent black-tie wardrobe, it’s easy to see why fans and critics speculated that he would step into the iconic role as James Bond.  That honor went to Daniel Craig in a run that started with the fabulous “Casino Royale” in 2006.  Clive was the lead in the iconic sci-fi thriller “Children of Men” that same year.  If you wonder what might have been for Owen, you’ll get a sense of it in “Croupier”, but don’t watch it for a Bond comparison. 

See “Croupier” for its merits, because it’s a dapper film with an equally debonair lead.

⭐⭐⭐ 1/2 out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Directed by: Mike Hodges

Written by: Paul Mayersberg

Starring: Clive Owen, Alex Kingston, Nick Reding, Nicholas Ball, and Gina McKee

Runtime: 94 minutes

Rated: Not rated

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