The Critics: Cinema: Also Showing

ANTONIA QUIRKE Croupier (15) Mike Hodges; 89 mins Cruel Intentions (15) Roger Kumble; 97 mins Just the Ticket (15) Richard Wenk; 115 mins Gloria (15) Sidney Lumet; 110 mins Venus Beauty (15) Tonie Marshall; 105 mins Bride of Chucky ( 18) Ronnie Yu; 90 mins Touch of Evil (12) Orson Welles; 111 mins

I'd love to know what goes on in the heads of distributors. How on earth do most of the films usually squashed into the bottom of this column get a proper release, when Mike Hodges' Croupier is left to be picked up by the BFI, and scheduled to play in fringe cinemas about the country?

Croupier is fascinating, mercilessly compact, adamant. It stars Clive Owen as Jack, a writer with no subject. He lives with his girlfriend Marion (Gina McKee), a candid store detective. Jack must earn a living, and is forced to fall back on his old skills as a crou-pier, accepting a job at a London casino. He works long nights, his hands manipulating the cards with maddening speed, his eyes cast impassively on the oiled, strained faces of the punters, on their funereal grins. Jack has found his subject. He is "hooked on watching people lose", on the destructive rage of the gambler.

Hodges and co-writer Paul Mayersberg (The Man Who Fell to Earth) use voice-over pretty consistently, and with such direction that for the first time this technique feels less of an ostentatious afterthought, a form of protection and remove, and more the most profound of punctuations. This is a film as much about writing as it is about gambling, and Owen's singular, empty voice takes us in and out of the narrative, drawing parallels between dealer and author, subject and victim, climate and chance, godlessness and purpose. Not even Scorsese managed this in Casino, which was also largely in voice-over, but voice-over dropped in scathingly. Croupier is Hodges at his best, keeping us always indoors (a flat, a gaming room, a bedroom, a car) and up against Owen, an under-used actor quite brilliant here with his matinee idol hair and mordant cheeks.

Cruel Intentions is a surprisingly winning update of Choderlos De Laclos's 1782 novel Les Liaisons Dangeureuses. It has rich New York teenagers Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe) manipulating their perverse and beautiful way around the crotches of their social set. The pair live to seduce and destroy. Enter Annette (Reese Witherspoon) - a smart, smug virgin. Irresistible sport! What fascinates here is how these young actors have absorbed the performances of Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer in Stephen Frears's Oscar-winning adaptation. Phillippe is the most successful in making the part both a recognisable homage, and his own. There is something consistently tragic about Phillippe's Sebastian, all mouth and slight frame, waving his wrists a la Malkovich, eyes full of complex need, just one put-down away from being doubled-up with terror and hope. The film also handles well. Laclos's atmosphere of secrecy and class is recreated, the truculent and subtle French characters of the original ingeniously translated into shitty American consumers.

In Just the Ticket, Andy Garcia plays Gary, a New York ticket-tout trying to win back both his girlfriend Linda (Andie MacDowell) and his reputation as king of the street. It's a peculiar cocktail of dullish romantic comedy, and of the long lenses, wireless microphones and hidden cameras you would find in a Sidney Lumet film. The film works well when it is down on the street, spying on Gary doing his off-the-cuff stuff with real commuters, and Garcia is physically perfect for this kind of role. Now, more than ever, he looks and behaves like Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon, or even the more relaxed moments of Serpico - Hawaiian shirt, neck held in perpetual astonishment, and shock-absorbent legs finished by white sneakers.

Gloria really is a Sidney Lumet film, and an unnecessary remake of the John Cassavetes 1980 film of the same title. Sharon Stone plays Gloria, a gangster's moll who becomes the reluctant guardian of a six-year-old boy (Jean-Luke Figueroa), after his family is killed by the mob. The film has none of the glare, the belly of the original, despite an artful performance from Stone. You can barely feel Lumet behind the camera - this is unsimmering, saccharine.

Venus Beauty stars Nathalie Baye as a beautician working in a Paris salon. Rendered unromantic by an unpleasant marriage, she is calculatedly promiscuous, picking up men at a local cafe every night, as though looking for blessing in the very effort of body-hunger. When she is approached with protestations of love by a stranger (Samuel Le Bihan), Baye retreats even more behind the high window of her paranoia and solitude. Tonie Marshall's quiet, unremarkable film has little real emotional pull.

Bride of Chucky is easily the best of the four-film Chucky franchise, and it's a barmy, witty horror movie full of Scream-like ironies. Jennifer Tilly plays the brash blonde who was Chucky's girlfriend before he became a toy (don't ask). Things are much as before - Chucky looking as though he's eaten too much liquorice and then had a dribbling fit, Chucky murdering with enthusiasm and ingenuity, and a soundtrack that comes on like a raging ulcer.

Orson Welles's 1958 Touch Of Evil gets a re-edit and a re-release. His morally equivocal thriller about sleaze in a Mexican border town was never released as Welles wanted. Although Walter Murch's restoration of various scenes (notably the famous opening sequence) is to be applauded, only real fans of the film will notice many of the changes. What a film this is. Welles playing corrupt cop Hank Quinlan like an enormous slug, absorbing candy bars, yeasty and damp, with lie-heavy eyes. Janet Leigh with her tinny face and slender, slender calves. Everything dark and inexorable and hot, like coming round from a dream, convinced that something is boiling very close to your head. Perfect then, and perfect now.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition