Jack Manfred (Clive Owen) is an aspiring young writer who has some experience as a croupier, or dealer, and who gets involved in an elaborate scheme to hold up a British casino on Christmas Eve. There’s an offbeat kind of suspense in the late-arriving robbery plot, but the more abiding suspense spins out of mysteries of identity focusing on Manfred himself, who is also working on a novel featuring a kind of alter ego named Jake. Mike Hodges’ sleekly atmospheric direction and an able and engaging cast have much to do with the fascination of this quick, sly film, but the key to it all is Paul Mayersberg’s playfully convoluted script, which presents Jack/Jake through an intricate and ironically humorous combination of dramatic action and voice-over narration. Ultimately, Croupier
may be both the story of a croupier who writes about his life while also gambling with it, and the noirish fantasy invented by a casino professional who gives us only fragmented glimpses of what’s really going on in his life.