Cult Movies: Mike Hodges' Croupier has really stood the test of time
IT'S fair to say that Mike Hodges' place at the top table of British crime cinema was forever assured when he gave us Get Carter in 1971, but there's more to the director's CV than just that game-changing Michael Caine-fronted revenge thriller.
A working director, raised in an era when you took on whatever film jobs you were fortunate enough to have shoved your way, he made the likes of Pulp, again with Michael Caine in 1972, The Terminal Man, a Michael Crichton adaptation from 1974 and the outlandish space opera that was Flash Gordon in 1980. He also delivered Morons From Outer Space, a very loosely labelled 'comedy' with Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones, in 1985 – but maybe the less said about that the better, eh?
Croupier is perhaps his greatest film other than Get Carter and one that really stands the test of time. Released in 1998 after almost a decade away from the director's chair, it remains a beautifully realised character study and one of the finest crime flicks of the era.
Boasting a typically intelligent screenplay by Paul 'The Man Who Fell To Earth' Mayersberg and graced with central performances that make it a slow-burning and deeply rewarding watch even today, Croupier is the kind of film that creeps up on you and buries itself deep into your subconscious despite its simplicity and understated delivery.
Cool, aloof and gripping from start to finish, it's a superior British crime thriller and boasts what is arguably still the finest screen performance from Clive Owen to date. He plays Jack Manfred, an aspiring but unsuccessful writer with limited career prospects who takes on a job as a high stakes casino croupier to help pay the bills.
Swiftly seduced by the world he finds himself submerged in, Jack's homelife with girlfriend Marion (Gina McKee) soon hits the wall as he sleeps with workmates and befriends the gamblers he meets, all in the name of giving him material for the book he trying to write.
His life turns fully when he meets a down-on-her-luck gambler called Jani (Alex Kingston). Desperate to settle her considerable debts, Jani convinces Jack to help her with a planned heist at the casino that would leave them both rich. Like all gambler's plans, it sounds infeasibly easy on paper, but things don't go anywhere near as smoothly as the couple hope as the lies and cheating grow ever bigger.
Owen is immense as the ruthless writer slumming it for the sake of experience and Hodges unfolds the story with real class throughout.
Arrow DVD have reissued this tautly made study of obsession and luck from the original 35mm source material and the resulting 4K restoration from the original camera negative looks stunning. There is an audio commentary from critic Josh nelson and interviews with the likes of Mayersburg and Hodges to enjoy among the many extras as well.
There's even a brand new documentary on the double disc set that sees Hodges sit down with David Cairns to look back on a directorial career less ordinary. Like everything the man made, with the possible exception of that Morons From Outer Space blip, it's well worth spending some time with.