Croupier is the latest film in the Shooting Gallery Film Series to get limited release (others include Judy Berlin and Southpaw). These films screen for audiences on a select night, and after the film, they can discuss it. They definitely have a higher artistic value than many general release films, and depending on the reaction, they may get a shot at gaining a wider audience. Croupier is the latest film from acclaimed English director Mike Hodges (whose recent films include A Prayer for the Dying and Black Rainbow. Croupier is a dark exploration of the psyche of Jack Manfred (Clive Owen, Green Fingers, Bent).

Manfred is an author, working on a story about soccer. To support himself, he gets a job as a croupier, a dealer at a casino. Manfred apparently has prior experience as a dealer in South Africa, so he is a natural talent. Screenwriter Paul Mayersberg (Centaur, The Last Thing I Do) portrays a bleak existence for casino employees. They are subject to strict rules from their superiors and lead generally dull lives. Manfred slowly begins to succumb to this lifestyle, losing emotion and will. His story about soccer begins to change into a thinly veiled autobiographical account of his own experience at the casino. The gamblers are no different from Manfred. He is the one feeding their addiction, and they keep coming back for more.

Owen's voice never detracts from a grating monotone. He narrates portions of Croupier the same way, which ends up as distracting. However, since nothing is seen of Manfred prior to his employment, it is hard to differentiate whether he is so dull because of his job or if he was that way to begin with. Manfred changes slowly as he spends more time at the casino. Initially, he obeys every rule down to the letter. He does not converse with patrons, does not date employees, and refuses to gamble. The job begins to change him. In essence, he begins to gamble with himself. He dates coworkers and patrons (Kate Hardie, The Announcement, Heart, and Alex Kingston, NBC's ER, Essex Boys) and estranges himself from his girlfriend Marion (Gina McKee, The Messenger, Notting Hill). The longer he stays on the job, the more daring he gets, but by the time this happens, most viewers are lost in boredom.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 29 minutes, Not Rated but contains some language, violence, and nudity, would be an R.

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