CROUPIER (1998) / Crime-Drama

July 17th

“Now he had become the still center of that spinning wheel of misfortune. The world turned ‘round him, leaving him miraculously untouched. The croupier had reached his goal. He no longer heard the sound of the ball.”

Here, Clive Owen has a performance similar to Gosling’s in Drive inasmuch as it relies on understatement to work. Yet brimming just underneath that equable façade is a kind of chilling intensity that once in a blue moon manages to rear its ugly head. And it’s frightening.

That’s how most of Croupier pans out. Our relationship with the film itself mirrors that of Jack Manfred and the gamblers, his subjects. Just like its eponymous character, Croupier is a work of sheer minimalism, but there are secrets underneath its well-groomed, class-act exterior. There is ambiguity, uncertainty –complexity. It’s a waiting game. We wait. Maybe we’re rewarded, maybe we aren’t. It doesn’t matter. We’re there to be taken for a ride.

One of the joys about journeying back through a catalog of films you’ve previously loved to see if that love still stands is that you’ll more than often find that it does. Such is the case with Croupier. I’ve been in love right from the start with its luminous cinematography, its slow-mounting sense of dread, its noir conventions – that aforementioned Clive Owen performance, which is as enthralling and mysterious as any sculpture. And in the femme fatale(?) role, Alex Kingston provides us with the film’s sole source of something resembling humanity.

Final rating: ★★★★ (out of ★★★★)

© 2012 Stephen Earnest

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