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Croupier Review

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Jack Manfred is set up by his gambling-crazed father to take a job as a dealer in a London casino. This puts a strain on his relationship with his day-working girlfriend, especially when he has a succession of flings.

★★★★

Croupier was first released in the UK in 1999 and did very little business. The film then opened to some success in America, and at least a dozen other, mostly lesser, British crime films came and went (in one, Essex Boys, Alex Kingston essentially redoes her Croupier role, albeit with a different accent). In a rare instance of the film business admitting they might have been wrong, Croupier has scored a proper re-launch and all of you who missed its first outing - it was one of those films that had vanished by the time you decided to see it - have a chance to catch up.

If it's not quite a missing masterpiece - Owen's cool central performance gets a bit too blank for comfort at times, and the last reel has two or three twists too many as vital plot elements, like who-killed-whom and who-has-the-money, get dropped - it is still a strong London thriller, with a lot of good stuff about an unfamiliar dusk-'til-dawn world.

Scripted by Mayersberg, who directed 1986's similarly strange Captive, Croupier has a nugget of a creepy, paranoid mystery, but is as interested in the odd details of working in a semi-legitimate casino: relationship-ruining hours, the inviolable-but-often-ignored rules, the potentially violent dimwit clients, the sharpies with schemes to rook an already-rigged game.

With a writer hero, whose only other option is ghosting a novel to be ascribed to a football star, and a plot that might or might not be made up just to give him something to write about, there's a lot of distancing going on. But, as in Get Carter, Hodges has a way with suspicious supporting characters and strange women - especially funny fatale Kingston and the oddly sexy Hardie. And all the places are caught exactly: the hero's basement flat, the cramped but luxurious gambling hell, and a country house where a gambling-and-adultery-break turns sour.

It’s more of an art movie than a thriller, but it’s still gripping, persuasive, unsettling stuff.