Croupier movie review


Croupier (1998) introduces you to the casino as experienced on the other side of the table. Clive Owen plays Jack Manfred, a novelist with a writing block and a shortage of cash. To scramble together the funds and the inspiration to work on a new novel he takes up a job as a croupier, a job he once held in South Africa when younger. He soon finds himself thoroughly absorbed by the workings of this seedy London casino. His growing fascination with watching people lose leads him to invent a cold and detached alter ego, the protagonist of what is to be his next novel. As he is the quiet observer collecting material for his book, events are followed through Jack’s point of view – or Jake’s, his protagonist who gradually comes to influence his decisions, as Jack’s drive to create a good narrative begins to push along the plot of the movie. He becomes so deeply involved with the narrative he is unfolding that he breaks the rules of the casino one by one and becomes involved in a criminal plot in which he is to play a key role. How far will a writer go for a good story?

Clive Owen is captivating as the cool and controlled Jack Manfred. Despite being an unlikable character primarily driven in both writing and other endeavours by his desire for money, his confidence is as magnetic as his anatomization of the mind of the croupier is fascinating. The movie really takes its time to develop character and atmosphere, alternating powerfully between the emptiness of Jack’s apartment and the dingy clutter of the casino, and allowing Jack’s narrative to blend with events in a striking way. The quiet noirish atmosphere of a film that for once doesn’t bombard you with casino glitz and glamour makes Croupier an exceptional crime movie that really draws you in.