This classic from FilmFour is about a frustrated penniless writer who reluctantly takes a job as a croupier only to find his experiences at the casino helps him with his writers’ block. Heavily narrated throughout as if reading from a book, we follow our protaganist Jack Manfred (Clive Owen) as he expertly trips through the minefield of bouncers, hustlers, drug-dealers, violent punters and various women that the seedy life of the casino provides. But the narration becomes so heavy you are left wondering whether he is experiencing all this or just making it up. Mix this with the double-life lies and bluff that is required in a life of gambling and you are left with a potent, heady spin wondering what’s just happened or indeed what’s to come.

The sober performance of Clive Owen is perfect for keeping us grounded throughout the film and his cool headed James Bond swagger wins us over straight away. This was the first film I’ve seen him in, one of his earliest, and I was impressed by the performance though at times I did feel he had turned his character on just before the cameras rolled. The ever watchable Kate Hardie’s character was fun if a little underused. And worthy of a mention was Alex Kingston whose layered character was not overdone. Gina McKee’s character, Jack’s girlfriend, though not supposed to be, ended up being more of an enigma than he! Also for a couple who were hard up and penniless, they seemed to enjoy an incredibly comfortable middle-class lifestyle.

At just one and half hours, this film packs a lot in leaving a nice-paced film. Though a little dated (it was filmed in 1998 and the lead seems to be smoking everywhere he goes!) it still makes for a good flick, especially for a quiet night in.


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Posted in 1990's, DVD | Leave a comment

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