Didn’t catch Mike Hodges’ latest movie when it was first released in June ’99? That’s probably because it received a minimal release which unfortunately coincided with a reissue of the director’s attention-snatching crime classic Get Carter. Video store obscurity appeared certain, and it looked as if Croupier would suffer the same fate as fellow Hodges movies Black Rainbow and Florida Straits (never heard of ’em? Exactly). But then the unthinkable happened: it came out in the States and became a sleeper hit.
So, with such a resounding vote of confidence, it’s not surprising FilmFour has granted Croupier a second outing in the UK, and it definitely deserves it, if only to show that Hodges is still a film-maker to be reckoned with (Morons From Outer Space notwithstanding).
Written by Paul Mayersberg (The Man Who Fell To Earth), Croupier owes much of its success to Clive Owen, whose tombstone features and glacial cool are perfectly suited to his role as a would-be novelist sucked into a world of intrigue and deceit. When not dealing cards and quips with equal aplomb, Owen can be heard delivering a cynical voice-over that harks back to the classic films noir of the ’40s and ’50s – indeed, the plot itself recalls the likes of Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice.
Owen could pass for 007 in his dickie bow and tux, and Mayersberg generously supplies him with a trio of accommodating females. Gina McKee and Kate Hardie are effectively cast as Jack’s disapproving partner and a two-timing colleague respectively, but it’s ER star Alex Kingston – vamping up a storm as the obligatory femme fatale – who provides the sex appeal in what would otherwise be a rather bloodless thriller in the House Of Games mould.
Sharp as a razor and beautifully shot, it’s good to see Croupier given a new lease of life. Go on, give it a chance.