Jack Manfred, the hero of Croupier, believes that we all have to make a choice in life: you are either a gambler, or you are a croupier. Manfred’s casino job places him midway between the bettors and the bosses, allowing him to keep an eye on both. He is an aloof, controlled individual who makes sure the viewers understand that he never gambles –but this is true only in terms of casino games. He places some pretty awful wagers in terms of his personal life, however, and by the time the film draws to a close we find our dour hero entangled with three different women and involved in a plot to cheat the casino…
Plotline for the Film Croupier
The part of Jack Manfred is played perfectly by Clive Owen in Croupier, and the viewer is informed that Jack wishes to be a writer, narrating his own story as if he is writing it, in the third person. There is a hint of the reason for his abstaining from gambling altogether: a past spent doing just that, obsessively, is insinuated.
Nicholas Ball portrays the part of Jack’s father, a key figure in our hero’s makeup. Manfred’s father was most certainly a gambler, a hedonist who spent his time womanising; gambling; drinking and treading roughshod over his young son’s dreams. This is the reason behind the cold and calculating facade Manfred has in place, a leftover survival tactic formed during a very unstable childhood.
Jack’s father, situated in South Africa to play top 5 Aussie pokies games, organises a job at a London casino for him, dealing cards at one of its roulette tables. Although Jack is not a gambling man, he is a very good dealer, and is adept at manipulating the cards. The film shoots the casino scenes very interestingly, making a point of observing the dealers, and exploring how they are forced into one another’s company as a result of the strange hours and bizarre tasks their jobs demand. Punters are treated totally dispassionately: after all, whether a player wins or loses, a dealer’s shift remains as long, and as evenly paid.
Gina McKee, Jack’s girlfriend Marion, is a store detective, pushing our hero to follow his dreams of being an author. Jack also indulges in dalliances with a dealer, Bella, and a South African casino client, Jani. However, the latter is the brains behind the scheme to swindle the casino. Jack’s overall detachment and enjoyment of an intricate plot ensures that he responds to her bait.
Interesting Twists and Turns for Croupier
The plotline for Croupier delivers more than this reviewer bargained for, and unexpected events lead to a very satisfying ending that does not require too much of a stretch of the imagination to believe. The power of Croupier does not lie in its plot, however, but in the atmosphere and characters that people it, and the illusion of control so many individuals have in place.
Clive Owen is masterful in the leading role, with the same sense of reserve Connery brought to the Bond films initially: he is never totally involved in what is unfolding before him, giving the viewer a very real sense of his measuring and calculating nature at all times.