"Hang on tightly, let go lightly."
A film released in the UK in 1999 and the USA in 2000, Mike Hodges' work starring Clive Owen is a masterpiece of a morality play. The slow moving piece needs no soul-sucking car chases to draw its audience in and instead plays on the viewer's own perceptions of the wisdom of impartiality.
"She said I had the hands of a conjurer... or a card sharp..."
Jack Manfred, an out of work writer who is reduced to writing football novels during a bout of writer's block, reluctantly decides to take a croupier job at a casino to cover his debts and make rent. Initially he attempts to maintain his stance as observer to the world, distinguishing the difference between gambler and dealer, punter and croupier. As he composes a novel in his head, however, his main weakness is uncovered: he is addicted to watching people lose. Soon he (and his literary counterpart, Jake) is drawn into a circle of intrigue as he fails to maintain his personal rule of noninterference.
This is a very dark film that may seem to drag at times, but every twist is another stab at the audiences's perception of morality, one that thins the line between Jack and Jake, drawing into question where the viewer stands: are you a gambler or a dealer?