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Home » Culture and Criticism

28/31: Croupier

Submitted by on January 28, 2015 – 10:00 AM2 Comments
Screen: Channel 4 Films

Screen: Channel 4 Films

Most contemporary reviews of Croupier point to Clive Owen as the best — almost the only — thing about it, and he's marvelous, but I disagree.

It's got a noirish tone that's self-aware without becoming self-conscious, and I really like how it blurs what what Jake (the protagonist of the novel Jack's allegedly researching when he takes the job) is experiencing as a croupier into what Jack is experiencing as a croupier and a writer. Just when you think the script has picked a side and everything we see is "objective" reality, Jack edits himself mid-scene, and you wonder whom the plot is really happening to. Jack's voice-over wonders this too, but he doesn't really care about the answer, and Owen's excellent at investing Jack with appeal without romanticizing the ways he's deadened himself against emotions and abandonment. His silent agreement with his gambler father (Nicholas Ball) that they'll both just believe Dad's claims about living high on the hog is perfectly done, unsentimental and ruefully funny.

The late revelation about Jani's (Alex Kingston) real game confuses matters instead of clarifying them, but Croupier is still a fun ride, well paced and process-y about casino work. It's shot with that heightened '90s-indie glarey lighting, a look I generally dislike but that works here to point up the smallness and cheapness of Jack's surroundings. Not everything about it works, but just as Jack knows he's a one-book writer, Croupier knows the strengths of its story — Owen, atmosphere — and sticks to them.

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2 Comments »

  • Nanc in Ashland says:

    One of may all-time favorite movies! It's an odd film, an odd story, but man oh man, it sucks me in every time! I've always struggled to explain the film to friends and family and usually just end up saying "Watch it–I was right about Blow Dry, An Everlasting Piece, Kinky Boots and Rustlers' Rhapsody–you'll like it!"

  • attica says:

    This is a favorite of mine for the reasons you point out. Owen's voiceovers are hysterical in tone; it's like the actor is making fun of himself as he Mickey Spillanes his way through.

    "Hang on tightly, let go lightly" as a motto is both gimlet-eyed and kind of hot.

    That this movie was so hard to get in widescreen dvd format for years and years was a particular annoyance of mine. Apparently there were bankruptcies in distribution companies and stuff like that which interrupted my re-viewing pleasures. It's never on tv; it's a shame more people don't know it.

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