Clive Owen plays Jack, an aspiring writer who takes a job as a croupier in a London casino. He soon decides the job would make an excellent book. But his protagonist’s perverse addiction to watching people lose bleeds into Jack’s sense of morality. Complicating matters, a mysterious punter played by Alex Kingston offers Jack a lucrative but dangerous proposition.
Despite the specious editing, I enjoyed this neo-noir. Owen manages the tricky task of proving charismatic despite a perpetual stoic countenance, and his baritone timber makes the voice-over stream-of-consciousness pleasant. I didn’t see the ending coming, and I loved the inside-baseball of casino operations.
But about that editing. It affords no sense of time passing. Owen’s live-in girlfriend goes from congratulating him on his new job to lashing out at him for coming home late after what seems like two nights at work. Later, she leaves him but returns after… a week, a weekend, a month? Who knows? I’d like to believe director Mike Hodges submitted a longer cut the producers chopped down. Or perhaps budget begot the compressed timeline, affording Hodges only so many scenes. Regardless, this shortfall diminishes the film’s impact, keeping it from greatness.