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Croupier (1998, Clive Owen, Alex Kingston)



The phrase ‘sleeper hit’ was never better applied than to Mike (Get Carter) Hodges’ film, whose initial distribution wasn’t just below the radar but positively subterranean. However, word of mouth forced it to the surface and it took critical plaudits on both sides of the Atlantic but sadly couldn’t be Oscar-nominated since it had been briefly shown on a pay-TV channel.

Clive Owen plays Jack Manfred, a would-be writer who lives with girlfriend Marion Nell (Gina McKee). To make ends meet, at the behest of his South Africa-based dad (Nicholas Ball), he takes a job as a dealer in a plush casino, where his super-fast dealing soon sees him in steady employment, providing material for his novel. But his life begins to unravel as he first has an affair with fellow croupier Bella (Kate Hardie) and then becomes embroiled with the glamorous Jani De Villiers (Alex Kingston) who, as well as bedding him, needs his help as an insider for a daring scam to rip off the casino…

The film’s success is underpinned by the performance of Owen, who retains a cool, observational detachment to both his relationships and the punters he deals to every night – he says he doesn’t gamble, but seems not to realise he’s gambling with his personal life. But the supporting cast are also outstanding and Hodges’ thriller refuses to rely on violence and dramatic set pieces, preferring instead to build slowly but confidently to a genuinely surprising finale.

production details
UK | 94 minutes | 1998

Director: Mike Hodges
Writer: Paul Mayersberg

Clive Owen as Jack Manfred
Alex Kingston as Jani De Villiers
Nicholas Ball as Jack Snr.
Kate Hardie as Bella
Alexander Morton as David Reynolds
Rhona Mitra as Girl with Joint
Gina McKee as Marion Nell
Paul Reynolds as Matt
Nick Reding as Giles Cremorne
Barnaby Kay as Car Dealer
Ozzie Yue as Mr Tchai