Film Commentary [9-6-00]
Gamblers anonymous - - Croupier
Genre: Drama
Grade = B+

Croupier (pronounced Crew-pee-aye for you functional illiterates) is the latest effort from British director Michael Hodges (Get Carter, The Terminal Man). Although it debuted in 1998, it is just now hitting theaters in the US.

Croupier follows the story of Jack Manfred (Clive Owen) a novelist in London desperate for work who first contemplates taking a job from an editor friend who wants a novel about a soccer team. On the advice of his father, he decides to take a job in a small casino in the city as a croupier, or in the American vernacular, a card and roulette dealer. This is not the first time he has held this kind of job. He was formerly a croupier at a casino in South Africa.

Jack coldly narrates the film, guiding you through the world of the small London casino and its patrons. He examines the various types of players as well as their personalities and drives which bring them to his table. He himself is an addict. He is addicted to observing others gamble, but refuses to gamble himself. His voyeurism is central to the construct of the film.

Owen portrays Jack as a seemingly cold and indifferent man more accepting of his fate as a blocked writer than he lets himself believe. Although Jack prefers to think of himself as the only honest person in the situations around him, he too is lured into self-deception. The rest of the cast hand in first-rate performances most notably that of his would-be girlfriend.

This is a sophisticated, complex and subtle film that possesses a mature script by Paul Mayersberg. It has been compared to last year's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, however, the comparison is not in the right context as this film possesses neither humor nor action. They are merely comparable as films that both examine the seedier side of Britain and at the same time seem to possess a sense of style. It also possessed a enigmatic ending in which you are not quite sure which is supposed to represent reality in the story or Jack's fantasy.

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