CROUPIER

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Croupier CoverWhat's the biggest difference between a prayer in a church and a prayer in a casino? In a casino, you'll really mean it. Oh! Sorry. Did I offend you? My bad. I tell you what, for my penance, I will watch this 94-minute movie made in 1998, Directed by Mike Hodges; and Starring: Clive Owen, Gina McKee, with Alex Kingston. God bless.


Croupier


THE STORY:
Who am I? Me. Jack Manfred (Clive Owen). Am I a wannabe author? Just as my loving girlfriend, Marion (Gina McKee), surmises? Or am I a croupier at heart? Because that's what I'm currently doing, working at a Casino in the heart of old London town.

Hey! Don't get me wrong. I'd love to write for a living. Honestly I would. Why else would I try to peddle my wares to my lacklustre agent? Yet, for the life of me, I'm a man of the cards too! Sliding and shuffling my way from blackjack to roulette at every chip played.

Well, I suppose if I'm going to be straight with you, folks, who I really am does change over time when I meet a number of people at my new place of work. Like Matt or Bella (Paul Reynolds and Kate Hardie) for example: who are two croupiers that show me another side of Casino life. Or then there is someone like Jani de Villiers (Alex Kingston): who's a punter that I can't help bumping into no matter where I am.   

Yeah. You name it. Jani's there. At the Casino. At the shops. At a restaurant. Every time I turn around beautiful Jani is there with a smile on her face and a word in her mouth.   

But then again, that's most probably explains why what next transpires all kicks off when Jani gives me an offer I can't refuse. As lovers split - a proposition turns to sh*t - a plan is all the rage - and love, life, death, and gambling all falls down to a turn of a page.    




THE REVIEW:
Now it's pretty safe to say that I used to be a bit of a gambler in the past. Every Tuesday and Friday I would go to my local dog track splashing the cash like a seal with a stutter. Whilst every Saturday and Monday I would visit the Casino or Bingo Hall, just to see if I my luck would ever come in.

It didn't. Not really. I wished that it did. But it didn't. And that's one of the reasons why I eventually gave this expensive activity the 'old elbow', and why I am now writing about an amazing film called 'Croupier'.  

Yeah. Straight up, folk's! This is one of the best gambling movies I've ever seen. It's well acted. The story makes sense. And it has a wonderful way of 'telling it like it is' without any of that Hollywood nonsense I'm not very keen on.


Alex Kingston and Clive Owen in Croupier


Clive Owen in Croupier
Here, let me tell you why in bullet-point form. (1) I found that Clive Owens sullen voice over narration enhanced this film to such a degree, that it actually transformed it into some type of gum-shoe mystery without it actually being one. Personally speaking, I really do dig this type of stylisation. Because it gives the overall pretext a lot more substance than what is presented. (2) Every single actor in this flick is just amazing to watch. Clive plays the straight laced creative like a man possessed. Alex is so charming I wanted to shag her on the spot. Kate and Gina play the ying / yang 'lady friends' so well they'd give Betty and Veronica a run for their money. Plus the rest of the cast supported this film without diluting its conceptual essence. (3) Aesthetically this movie is about a man attempting to figure out who he is in rather shady surroundings. So if you are a fan of deep probing issues relating to behaviour, temperament, and personality, my God, you have to watch this film. It's a must see. (4) I did like the manner in which the subject of gambling was depicted in this film. It did not try to glamorise it by presenting an overt and bodacious facade. What it did instead is illustrate the more physiological and logical side of this past time, by presenting a more grassroots and candid take on this topic of note. (5) If I had to find a fault with this flick, it would have to be that it took a long time before it defined what it was in rational movie terms. From my perspective, the first thirty minutes laid the basic ground work on who the characters are and what they are all about. The next thirty minutes depicted the central characters fall from grace. And the last thirty minutes was how he dealt with the final dilemma presented to him. Now don't get me wrong. There's nothing negative about this 'Three Act' structure. It was just a mite too slow in the coming. (6) There was quite a bit of nudity in this film. Again. This isn't a bad thing. Oh no. Just something that has to be mentioned. (7) Without giving too much away, the ending to this adventure was f*cking amazing. Say no more. 


Alex Kingston in Croupier Nude


Clive Owen in Croupier
Now as I'm in a bullet point sort of a mood, why don't I present you with these bullet point facts! (1) 'Channel Four Films' first released this production on the very same day that the 'J18' held an 'anti-globalization protest' throughout the world -- the 18th of June, 1999. (2) Although most of this movie was shot at 'Infostudios' Studio, Westphalia, Germany, numerous parts of it were also shot in South Africa, and Buckinghamshire, England. (3) Loosely translated, this project was entitled 'The Blow: Analysis of a Robbery' in Italy; 'Casino Job' in Finland; and 'Roulette Death' in Croatia. (4) The filmic-elite has classified this genre of movie a 'neo-noir', because 'neo' means 'new' in Greek, and 'noir' means 'black' in French. (5) I kid you not; this flick was disqualified from the Academy Awards because it was shown on Dutch television. (6) The writer, Paul Mayersberg, was inspired to pen this thriller after watching the 1958 Akira Kurosawa melodrama, 'The Hidden Fortress'. (7) During production, most of the actors -- including Clive Owen, and Kate Hardie -- were taught how to become croupiers by actual professional croupiers. (8) This film was completed in 1996, and it sat on the shelf for two whole years before it was eventually distributed. 


The Casino in Croupier


Overall 'Croupier' is a very-very good film. The acting was spot on. The style was detective-like in tone. Plus the story is about a subject matter that's very engaging on a number of levels. A gambling level. A physiological level. And a literary level too.

It's a smashing film, and with that, nuff said.

THE RATING: A