Bomb Rating: 

Where in this world is it that beautiful women just casually get naked in front of you simply for convenience? For God's sake, I can't get women to do that in my dreams. However, in the world of the croupier, Jack (Clive Owen), a co-worker, Bella (Kate Hardie), just rips off her blouse and bra in the locker room like she's at a strip joint. Then Jack is at a friend's house with Jani (Alex Kingston) for the weekend, and she just gets buck naked right in front of him. It's not like they're together or anything. She's just like, here are my goods, la de da, nighty-night.

A croupier, in case you were wondering, is a guy or a gal who works in a casino. They can deal black jack or run the craps table or whatever. In Jack's case, he takes the job because he's a struggling writer being supported by his girlfriend, Marion (Gina McKee), and he's sick of not having any money. Although he doesn't gamble, he finds the job addictive because he gets hooked on his power over the inevitable streak of losers that sit in front of him night in and night out.

When he meets Jani de Villiers (Alex Kingston), things get complicated for Jack. Most importantly, he has to listen to Kingston and try to figure out where the hell that nutty accent is from. Once he clarifies that it's South African, things improve. Although she appears a competent enough gambler, Jani tells Jack that she's in trouble and needs his help. His casino is going to be robbed and all he has to do is respond to a cheater and cause a small disturbance -- a tiny gamble. Of course, Jack doesn't gamble.

Director Mike ("Get Carter") Hodges seems to have spent plenty of time with the atmosphere of the casino and such -- things anybody could have gotten right -- and hardly any time thinking about whether the story made sense. First of all, Jani makes a phone call to Jack's flat and leaves a message on his answering machine, which basically says, "It's on for 4:45 tomorrow." Do smart criminals usually leave incriminating evidence on answering machines? Naturally, Jack never gets the message; Marion does, which is another inexplicable move. Jani knows, or should know, that Jack lives with somebody. Finally, "Croupier" ends like an episode of "Ripley's Believe it or Not." Jack gets a phone call that explains the whole thing and the movie is over. It's no wonder that I felt like I had put my eight bucks down on the table, watched it disappear, and didn't even get to play.

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