It's pitiful that no British distributor had the imagination to give Mike Hodges' 1997 film a proper release. An interior thriller set in the seductive nocturnal world of London's casinos and after-hours drinking clubs, it's every bit as compelling as the fashionable Get Carter. Jack (Clive Owen) wants to be a writer, but it's only when he falls back on his old skills as a croupier and accepts a job at the Golden Lion that the novel starts to write itself. A wideboy colleague suggests a theme ('I wanna fuck over the world'); and a beautiful gambler (Kingston) initiates a plot when she propositions him outside the casino. Only the central character presents problems: Jack's girlfriend Marion (McKee) is horrified that the fictional 'Jake' is such a callous operator. Croupier is as much about writing as it is about gambling. It bills itself, quite properly, as 'a film by Mike Hodges and Paul Mayersberg'- the man who wrote The Man Who Fell to Earth. Almost every exchange of dialogue is punctuated with Jack's internal commentary: 'In life there is a choice: be a gambler or a croupier,' he muses. 'I was hooked on watching punters lose.' Not since Casino has a film leaned so heavily on voice-over, but in many ways Mayersberg and Hodges use it more inventively than Scorsese, not only to draw parallels between the dealer (who must never gamble) and the author (who also looks down on his subjects), but as an integral element in an unravelling game of karma, conscience and duplicity. Superbly played - Owen has never been better - and directed with a mature, imperturbable calm, this is cinema worth seeking out.
Cast and crew