Croupier, directed by Mike Hodges (”Get Carter”), is so sharp and dryly urbane in its mod-Brit take on the noir, noir, noir, noir world of gambling, dames, and pulp fiction, it makes higher-profile attempts like ”Rounders” look blah, blah, blah, blah. Cowritten by Hodges and ”The Man Who Fell to Earth”’s Paul Mayersberg, this coiled-spring story about Jack (Clive Owen), a writer who returns to his old job as a casino croupier, reveals a David Mamet-like obsession with chance and double-dealing but ditches Mamet’s dialogue tics.
Jack thinks highly of his skills — he loves to watch people lose money — but he gets too cocky when he begins to live through the eyes of Jake, his literary alter ego. As an enigma passing as a boyfriend, Owen (”Bent”) is superb. Incidentally, ”Croupier” inexplicably took two years to find an American distributor. Shooting Gallery also recently released ”Judy Berlin” and ”Adrenaline Drive” — three strong indies — so look for its logo.