Croupier (1998) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

"The world breaks everyone. And afterwards, many are strong at the broken places. Those that will not break, it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave, impartially. If you are none of these things it will kill you too, but there will be no special hurry."

If I tell you that it's a movie about an aspiring author who takes a croupier job, you probably already know that it's one of those "loners with integrity" movies. Authors, after all, practice to be detached objective observers, and croupiers can't get involved either with bettors or with other members of the casino staff. Of course, despite his practiced lonership and alleged integrity, our hero manages to get involved with everyone. He's got more women undressing in front of him than Warren Beatty, a harem which includes both staff and bettors. He not only dates bettors, but conspires with one to participate in a scam to rob the casino. Or does he?

There are several interesting background elements behind The Croupier

  • Director Mike Hodges is the guy who directed the original Get Carter way back about twelve minutes after the Big Bang. I guess that isn't so completely absorbing unless you realize that he pretty much did nothing noteworthy in the thirty years between these two good movies. He is now close to seventy years old.
  • The film was a critical darling (97% positive reviews), but was disqualified from Oscar consideration because it first appeared on Dutch TV. (This is essentially the same reason the academy disqualified Linda Fiorentino for her performance in The Last Seduction.)
  • Clive Owen is now being mentioned as the leading candidate to replace Pierce Brosnan as Bond, James Bond.
Near the end of the film, just before the heist, Croupy figures out that he is being scammed, but he simply doesn't care. That is pretty cynical and world-weary, even by noir standards. In fact this guy is so world-weary that he makes Stephen Rea look as enthusiastic as Mike the Sweater Guy from those Amazing Discoveries infomercials.


  • Kate Hardie appears topless while in the casino's staff changing room.
  • Alex Kingston does full-frontal nudity when she appears naked in front of Croupy.

After the heist, however, he finds out that he has been scammed in another way he had not imagined. There is a final "gotcha" that pulls the rug out from under him, and does finally break down his indifference. Yup, the loner with integrity gets conned for a change, despite his cynicism. Of course, the whole experience just prepares him for even world-wearier soliloquies in the future.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen letterboxed

  • no features

Croupier does what it does quite well. It is cool and dripping with atmosphere, and sexy, and the dialogue is interesting and witty and poetic. But the critical praise may lead you to expect a taut and tense thriller, which it is not. And don't expect a slick Hollywood look. It looks low-budget and it is low-budget. It is even sloppy in spots. There is a ham-fisted editing error at about 58:40, and they just left it in!

But go into the film with reasonable expectations, and you will be pleasantly surprised.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3.5/4, Apollo 81, BBC 4/5.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.5, Apollo users 80/100
  • With their dollars ... it grossed $6m in the USA.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Pretty good film noir, eminently quotable. I really like it,  but it's too cold and lifeless for the mass audience. In a sense, it was widely overpraised by the critics, and its primary value is as a moody atmospheric piece with a unique take on noir, in which the moral tables get turned on the clichéd lonely guy with integrity.

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