Croupier (Review)

Croupier-1998Croupier is equal parts fascinating and frustrating.

For a long while it is a character study about the genuinely interesting character of Jack Manfred, but as the story develops it loses its way.

Clive Owen is Jack, a writer tired of being offered the formulaic and expected; “It’s a story about a sports team, but it’s really about sex!” Jack is also a little apathetic about his relationship with girlfriend Marion, a former policewoman turned store detective. I on the other hand rapidly tired of Jack’s bottle blond hair and affectation for his ridiculous gangster hat – but that’s just me.

At a crossroads of life Jack decides that he will develop his own story, and takes a job as a croupier at a local casino hoping to be inspired by the characters and events around him.

While on the job he does indeed come across some intriguing types, the cocksure little croupier who aids and abets cheats, the waitress looking for love, the casino manager who only acts like he knows it all. Jack knows all the angles, all the tricks and traps, and how to spot them. He follows the casino’s rules to the letter. Never gambles himself. Never let’s a cheat go. Never converses with the punters. And Jack is good at his job. He is an efficient, emotionless all seeing machine built to assist the casino make money.

Jack finds his angle into his novel, allowing events to play out to see where the narrative might go. Eventually though a mysterious foreign woman enters the tale and Jack finds himself unwittingly – though not unwillingly – dragged into his own story.

While the plot actually sounds like a framework for something decent, Croupier is weighed down by its determination to keep things low key and vaguely believable. At least I think that’s what weighs it down. It also doesn’t help that Jack is as uninvolved as the story, delivering both his performance and the occasional narration in a lifeless monotone.

I like Clive Owen. He is the only reason I tracked this down. But Croupier calmly and efficiently extracts all that is good and compelling about the man in favour of a mildly clever, mildly interesting character examination, leaving only the bushy eyebrows as evidence that he was even in it.

Final Rating – 6 / 10. If you have never understood the allure of the gambling scene, then Croupier will not be the film to change your mind. It’s a cinematic break even.

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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