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Jack Manfred is an aspiring writer going nowhere fast. To make ends meet, and against his better judgement, he takes a job as a croupier. He finds himself drawn into the casino world and the job gradually takes over his life; his relationship with girlfriend Marion begins to deteriorate. One gambler in particular catches his attention: Jani, whom he starts to see outside of working hours - a serious violation of casino rules. Jani is down on her luck; under pressure from her creditors she approaches Jack, asking him to be the inside man for a planned heist at the casino. Jack carefully considers the odds; it all looks so simple, but even a professional like Jack can't predict the cards he will be dealt. Written by
The film was a surprise hit in the US despite being an unsupported flop in its native UK. Director Mike Hodges was particularly disheartened by the fact that the British posters for Croupier (1998) read "From the director of A Prayer for the Dying (1987)", a film from which Hodges had tried to have his name removed from the credits. See more »
When Jack has a job interview at the London casino his father recommends him for, the manager (Mr. Reynolds) at one stage asks him the current count at the Blackjack table. Jack insists it is -9, the manager insists it is -8 to which Jack confides smugly to himself "It had taken him 45 minutes but Jack now had Mr. Reynolds number. The man couldn't count."
Neither Jack or Mr. Reynolds can count. The count is actually at +2. See more »
Now he had become the still center of that spinning wheel of misfortune. The world turned 'round him leaving him miraculously untouched. The croupier had reached his goal. He no longer heard the sound of the ball.
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A good film but not as satisfying as I would have liked
Jack Manfield is a writer but an unpublished one thus far. With money running out he follows a connection from his father that earns him a job interview in a London casino. After a short time he finds he has rediscovered the croupier bug and is back in love with his new job. He also finds that his experiences useful in creating a new book, lead the lead character, Jake, as a croupier. As he drifts apart from his girlfriend he loses himself in the world and starts breaking the rules ultimately getting involved with a patron, Jani, who asks him for help in organising a heist at the casino.
Quite often it'll be the UK, European or underground markets that expose an American film as a good film after the US market has ignored it, but with Croupier it worked the other way round. Hardly making any impact at all upon release in the UK, it was apparently good reviews and good figures from the US that helped make it better known. As such I came to it with mixed expectations I sort of half knew what to expect from it but I had also been led to believe that it would impress me a great deal. In some regards I enjoyed the film; it is intelligent, dark, thoughtful and has a reasonably enjoyable plot even if the plot does have equal billing with the atmosphere. However don't expect a great plot that piles twist on twist, because this isn't what the film is about. Rather the film relies very heavily on the observations of the croupier himself (both as Jack and Jake) to drive the film forward. I can't think of another film that I've seen that uses voice-over to such a degree (and makes it work), usually heavy voice-over use implies that the script and characters were not strong enough to hold the film up by themselves.
The clever twisting of Jack/Jake is subtle but done to good effect and was a big part of the reason that this film engaged me. Outside of this I found the plot to be rather hard work there is no one real thrust to the film with only the main one involving Jani really coming out to the front in order to deliver an ending in the traditional manner. This is a weakness and it stops the film being as satisfying as it could have been, with Jack not being provided with enough of a plot to be set in. That said it still works due to his character and some great direction from Hodges who avoids being overly flashy as the gambling world setting often encourages directors to be.
Owen is very good and convinces in his many scenes he is the heart of the film and it is to his credit that he manages to do it. Even in voice-over he delivers good character and direction for the film. Kingston is not as good. Aside from doing her whole nudity thing yet again she also is lumbered with an accent that doesn't suit her and one that she doesn't sound comfortable with (even if it isn't that bad). McKee is OK, as are Ball, Morton and Parnell albeit in smaller roles. But in a film that is more about the croupier than anything else, the film is Owen's and he rises to it and does well with the lead role.
Overall this is an OK film and one that deserves better than it received upon first release in the UK. However plot-wise it is not as satisfying as I would have liked it to be, instead it relies heavily on the character of Jack an aspect that is both the film's making and it's weakness (in that the film doesn't give him a good enough plot to be developed against).
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