Croupier (1998) Short review
Twisted. Just twisted. I knew nothing about the film going in. I had never even heard of it, so it came as a shock to me how good it was. It is a true crime noir. The twists in the film (and there’s quite a few) caught me completely off guard. Perhaps that’s because the film is so subtle that some of the plot twists seem not properly set up until I thought about it a little more. It’s all there. It completely lulls you to sleep, then hits you figuratively in the face with a metal frying pan.
Clive Owens’ stoic detachment from the proceedings definitely helped to hide where the film was going. It has a dark outlook and the end may not be for everyone. I found it be quite satisfying. Owens’ Jack Manfred is one of the best character studies I think I’ve ever seen that does still exist in a great story. In that I mean, some films regarded as character studies see the plot as secondary and maybe even unimportant to portraying intimate details of a particular characters makeup. Story is almost unimportant to defining who the character is. This film is almost ambiguous in its study of Jack (or Jake) and it’s not revealed until the last line that the writer knew exactly where this was going from the beginning.
Jack is an aspiring writer that takes a job as a croupier, a dealer in a gambling house, for research purposes. It’s not his first foray into the seedy gambling world. He narrates the story, but Jack is quite tightlipped. I really can’t talk much more about the movie without giving things away, so I won’t try. It is an instant classic film complete with heist, double cross and femme fatales.. Just not necessarily how you would expect those things. There are a few key roles in the film (besides Owens’ character of course). Alexander Morton as Jack’s hard-nosed no nonsense boss is very good in this, but the women of the film are the most important.
Alex Kingston plays a gambler that Owens begins to get friendly with, breaking the house rules as well as his own. I thought I knew where her part of the story was going, but like everything else in the film, it fooled me. Gina McKee is the loving girlfriend that wants Jack to succeed. I’ve always enjoyed McKee as an actress and am happy whenever she turns up. Her part isn’t what’s expected, either. Part of the fun of the film is to find out things on your own, though, so I won’t say any more about the characters.
I, for one, wasn’t completely sure what I had just seen until the last line of the film. The assessment by Jack that there are two types of people, croupiers and gamblers, is not entirely true as youll find out by the film’s end. This may be one of the slickest cons by a director that I’ve ever watched. The director uses a conceit of storytelling to con the audience with. Just an absolutely brilliant film, but there are no big explosions, chase scenes, etc. Its just story and dialogue. If you’re looking for a Hollywood summer blockbuster, it will not be Croupier by any means. It should be appreciated by anyone who enjoys intelligent filmmaking, though. There are things occuring onscreen that won’t be recognized until the credits begin rolling. Just a smart story and film. My hat’s off to director Mike Hodges for this one.
I guess I’ll be making room on my ‘Best Of’ Lists, too. This will definitely be on my Best of 1998 and Best Of the 1990s Lists… Scracth that. It was released in the UK in 1998, but didn’t make it’s way to the US (surprisingly) until the year 2000. So I guess it’ll go on the Best Movies of 2000 and the Best of The 2000s.