CROUPIER (1998)

dir. Mike Hodges. Jack Manfred (Clive Owen) is a bad boyfriend, and failed novelist who takes a job at a small casino to pay the rent. I remember this movie being much cooler than it seems today. We follow the story with Jack’s constant interior monologue as he compares his life with the novel he’s writing, mixing up his protagonist with himself, possibly disassociating to justify his poor decisions. I don’t think Clive Owen’s dead-eyed monotone delivery suited this role, he’s supposed to be charming, but is a bore, and he’s supposed to be a gifted writer, but spews cliches. His saving grace is that he is a competent croupier, although I suspect that the close up card handling was movie magic, and not Clive Owen’s hands at all. There is one spectacularly bad sex scene that reads as a violent sexual assault, except that it cuts to a moment of intimacy afterwards. Like in Mike Leigh’s NAKED (1993), apparently this was a universe where violent sexual assault serves as an aphrodisiac. Incidentally, NAKED was another film that wasted the talents of the wonderful Gina McKee. This is the movie that made Clive Owen famous, and for fans, made him a potential future James Bond. Although on this viewing, he seems much more suited to being a Bond villain, than 007, at least in the modern Bond era.