Director: Mike Hodges

Hot on the heels of the recent reissue of his ’70s classic Get Carter comes a new Mike Hodges movie to remind us that the British director (now well into his sixties) can still turn in good work when given a decent script. Hodges himself has written all his own movies (Get Carter, Pulp, The Terminal Man), but for Croupier he teamed up with Paul Mayersberg, the scriptwriter on Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth and Eureka. Unusually but appropriately, Croupier’s opening titles give director Hodgs and writer Mayersberg equal credit as co-authors of the film.
The fruits of their collaboration is a compelling casino thriller which draws us beyond the glitter into the dark and dangerous world of the gambling den. An excellent Clive Owen plays Jack Manfred, a would-be writer who reluctantly goes back to working as a croupier in London when his father arranges a job interview. At first, Jack insists on seeing the role of croupier as that of a detached observer who keeps his distance form colleagues and punters. But it doesn’t take long before he gets sucked into the intrigues of the casino and its denizens. His relationship with his girlfriend (Gina McKee) deteriorates because of the change in lifestyle, and Jack is soon breaking the rules through his involvement in a scheme to rob the casino.
Mayersberg’s characteristically complex and witty script plays with different levels of ‘reality’ and ‘fiction’ by having Jack the writer make his experiences at the casino the subject of his novel. There’s a blurring of identities between Jack and his fictional alter ego, each of whom provides commentaries on the action. Ironically, Jack’s final success comes not from his involvement with the planned robbery but through the publication of his novel. As Mayersberg piles up twists and complications, Hodges grounds the material through the precision of his direction, which maintains a tight focus on character and environment. Like the director’s earlier films, Croupier combines an impressive attention to detail with a strong sense that there is always much more gooing on below the surface.

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