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Mike Hodges
Clive Owen, Nick Reding, Nicholas Ball, Alexander Morton, Barnaby Kay, Gina McKee, John Radcliffe
Writing Credits:
Paul Mayersberg

Hang On Tightly ... Let Go Lightly.

All bets are off in London's gambling world when struggling writer Jack Manfred (Gosford Park's Clive Owen) accepts his father's offer of a job as a croupier. As his relationship with his girlfriend, Marion (Notting Hill's Gina McKee), suffers from the strain of his new job, Jack finds his eye roving to a seductive gambler, Jani (ER's Alex Kingston), who lures him into a dangerous robbery scheme with Jack positioned as the inside man. A critical and commercial smash, this delicious British thriller from director Mike Hodges (Get Carter) and writer Paul Mayersberg (The Last Samurai) is a solid winner from start to finish!

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$6.198 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby 2.0
Not Closed-captioned

Runtime: 91 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 3/9/2004

• None


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Croupier (1998)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 2, 2004)

Talk about a long time coming! Croupier premiered in 1998, went onto UK screens in 1999, made it to US theaters in 2000, and came out on DVD in 2001, I believe. However, in an unusual move, one could get it only through the online rental service Netflix. They enjoyed what I thought would be a brief period of exclusivity, but ďbriefĒ ended up being longer than anticipated.

ĒBriefĒ turned out to last about three years. Croupier finally became available in a non-Netflix setting in March 2004... with the same disc that we found from the rental service. Whether thatís good or bad will be an issue for the second half of this review. Right now Iíll look at the movie itself.

Croupier focuses on a struggling writer named Jack Manfred (Clive Owen), who lives with his girlfriend Marion (Gina McKee). His Dad (Nicholas Ball) arranges for Jack to get an interview to work as a dealer at the Golden Lion Casino. Jack meets with the manager, David Reynolds (Alexander Morton), and uses his prior experience to land the gig.

Jack learns some rules about working at the casino. Heís not allowed to fraternize with gamblers or fellow employees outside of the job, and he also must report any form of employee cheating if observed. Jack violates these rules pretty quickly. He goes to a party with a sleazy, opportunistic croupier named Matt (Paul Reynolds) and has a one night stand with cynical croupier Bella (Kate Hardie). Jack also runs into a sexy South African gambler named Jani (Alex Kingston) outside of work, and the pair develop a relationship.

Matters go downhill with Marion. Jackís experiences inspire him to write a book about his job, and she doesnít like it. Bella gets fired and blames Jack. Because of this, she comes by his apartment and reveals the tryst to Marion, who leaves him.

In the meantime, he fools around with Jani and becomes somewhat attached to her. She presents a proposal from her creditors to rob the Golden Lion. Her group needs an inside man and will pay him 20,000 pounds for his assistance. The rest of the movie follows the various relationships and what Jack decides to do in regard to the heist.

While Croupier presents an interesting scenario, it does little with it to provoke something of interest. It reminds me of a more recent flick about the British working class, Dirty Pretty Things. Both addressed people in the working classes, and both offered plots that dealt with intrigue. In Things, the story felt like something of a MacGuffin, as it concentrated most heavily on the lives of its characters. Croupier canít quite decide on what it wants to focus, which makes it somewhat mushy and ill defined.

As I noted, I like the concept behind the film. Plenty of movies examine casinos from the point of view of the gamblers, so itís cool to look at those establishments from the dealer perspective. Unfortunately, the movie doesnít concentrate on this area to any significant degree, as it mostly works on Jackís experiences.

That would be fine if these developed to any compelling degree, but they donít. Jack comes across as a flat and undeveloped character. The movie plays out his personality as calculated and somewhat soulless but fails to go anywhere. Croupier presents awkward and obvious exposition such as Jackís disdain for gambling, and the various metaphors fall flat.

The story comes across as simplistic and undeveloped. It uses narration to help push things along, but this just leads to forced exposition. Ultimately, the narration seems cheesy and creates more of a hindrance than a help.

Croupier wants to be dark and cynical, but it feels too obvious and artificial. It never earns its attitude, mainly because it uses elements as some form of shorthand to compensate for its weak development. At times it comes across like a parody of a film noir, but I donít think the filmmakers intended that. It appears weíre supposed to take it seriously, but they donít earn that respect.

One positive aspect of the film comes from Owenís performance. He makes Jack nicely low-key and gritty, and he almost makes the story feel like it has some depth and consequence. The other actors seem decent as well, but Owenís work gives the flick its only signs of life.

Otherwise, Croupier comes across as a bland disappointment. We get some interesting twists at the end, but these are too little, too late, and they feel like weak attempts to be clever. They fail, and the movie remains a good concept saddled by flat execution.

The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio C/ Bonus F

Croupier appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. For better or for worse, this disc simply rehashed the original non-anamorphic transfer Ė and everything else Ė from the Netflix version. This meant it offered a watchable but generally bland image.

Sharpness mostly seemed fine. Some wider shots came across as a bit soft and fuzzy, but those didnít turn into big problems. Mostly the movie looked reasonably concise and detaild. Some small examples of jagged edges and shimmering occurred, and I also noticed light edge enhancement throughout the film. Print flaws presented some mild distractions. Occasional examples of specks and grit popped up during the flick. These didnít become heavy, but they occurred more often than Iíd expect from a recent movie.

Colors seemed acceptably accurate but not better than that. Though the tones looked fairly distinctive and clear, they lacked much bite or snap. They appeared reasonably firm but that was it. Black levels also seemed decent, though they came across as a bit inky and flat. Shadow detail was visible but also featured some slight opacity and seemed lackluster. That word described the transfer as a whole, for Croupier offered a decent image without anything to stand out from the crowd.

In addition, the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Croupier seemed okay but nothing more. The soundfield presented a fairly mediocre experience. Not surprisingly, the forward speakers offered most of the audio, and they gave us a decent sense of atmosphere. This came out mainly during the casino scenes, which demonstrated a reasonably feeling for that environment. Elements seemed reasonably well placed and delineated. The surrounds added some general reinforcement of this and helped broaden the spectrum, but that was about it.

Audio quality appeared decent but also unexceptional. Speech was fairly concise and distinctive, and I noticed no signs of edginess or problems with intelligibility, though the lines sounded somewhat boxy and stiff at times. Music seemed a bit flat but mostly came across as fairly bright and clear. Effects were clean and without any noticeable issues, though the mix presented some odd reverberation for some scenes. The track showed acceptable bass, though the low-end was somewhat boomy at times. I noticed a little hiss on occasion. Overall, Croupier offered a pretty average auditory experience.

As I mentioned, this DVD does nothing to add to or alter the old Netflix version. That means it includes no supplements.

Croupier became a minor art house sensation a few years back, but I canít figure out why it enjoyed a positive reputation. The film boasted a good lead performance and an interesting concept, but the overall product seemed thin, undeveloped and without any real depth. The DVD offered very average picture and audio and came without any supplements. If the subject interests you, Croupier might merit a rental, but I canít recommend more for this spotty movie and mediocre DVD.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.6153 Stars Number of Votes: 13
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