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I couldn’t be happier that Clive Owen is finding his place in American theaters—because I’ve been a fan ever since I saw him in Greenfingers. But even before he played an inmate with a green thumb, he played Jack Manfred in this British thriller.

Jack is a struggling writer who can’t get a break. He lives with his girlfriend, Marion (Gina McKee), who’s convinced that his next novel is going to be a huge success. Jack, however, isn’t so sure. So when Jack’s father calls to say that he’s hooked him up with a great job as a dealer in a London casino, Jack reluctantly goes to the interview.

Jack’s fast-paced, pressure-filled, high-paying new job puts a strain on his relationship with Marion. But the more he gets into the job, the more he realizes that the life of a croupier would make an excellent novel. As he begins writing, he also begins taking more risks—to make his novel even more interesting.

From forbidden affairs to late-night after-work parties, Jack breaks all the rules but one: he won’t gamble. But when he finds himself drawn to Jani (Alex Kingston), a beautiful regular at his table, he’s asked to gamble more than just his job. In order to be able to return to her home in South Africa, Jani needs Jack’s help in planning a robbery of the casino. If all goes well, Jack could make enough money to buy a car and finally stop taking public transit. But he could lose more than just his job if things go badly. His straight-laced, rational side tells him to walk away—but the writer in him knows that it’ll be good for the book….

It may not be an action-packed film, but Croupier has more than enough suspense to keep your eyes glued to the screen. Owen is mesmerizing. As Jack, he’s dark and complex—yet perfectly smooth and detached, as any casino dealer should be. On top of that, the writing is clever. Jack, especially, is well-written—and, as a writer, I’m afraid that I understand him all too well. On the other hand, though, the story is sometimes difficult to follow—and there are a few holes that bothered me in the end. This isn’t a movie that will blow you away with action or effects or a huge twist in the end—but it is an interesting film with a fascinating main character and a couple of great surprises. It’s not a must-see (unless, of course, you’re a Clive Owen fan), but if you’re up for something a little out of the ordinary, Croupier won’t disappoint you.

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