Directed by Mike Hodges, starring Clive Owen, Gina McKee, Alex Kingston and Kate Hardie.

Originally released in 1999, Mike Hodges' 'Croupier' suffered death by under-promotion in the UK before being brought back to life on US screens six months later. Now another 18 months down the line, it's been given a re-release in Europe and should hopefully win the audience it deserved first time 'round.

Owen plays Jack Manfred, a struggling (read: can't get past page one) author who takes up a job as a croupier in a London casino so he can get the source material for his first great novel - or failing that, help long suffering girlfriend Marion (McKee) pay the rent.

Jack's attitude to his workplace is split 50/50 between fascination and contempt: he earned his bowtie and sang froid in the casinos of his native South Africa after watching his gambler father wreck the family in his search for another big payday. The experience taught Jack to live life from the other side of the table, but when he gets caught between Marion, an unhinged workmate (Hardie) and a hardup high roller, he decides to play a game with some very high stakes.

Hodges' was responsible for the great British gangster flick 'Get Carter' and despite a stop-start career (eight feature films in 28 years) and some interminable dross in the interim ('Morons From Outer Space'), 'Croupier' shows that he can still hold his own. Essentially a low-lit character study wrapped up in a heist, it's easy to see just how it fell through the cracks first time around: it's too measured and unnerving to be anything but a cult classic.

Central to its after hours appeal is Owen's cooler than thou performance as Jack, answering every question with another one and feeling he has a bigger pile of morality chips than anyone else, his transformation from wannabe writer to main character in his own novel is superb. You always get the feeling he's only one night away from losing the plot completely and with the women in his life hatching all manner of schemes, Hodges sets the viewer up for some shocking showdowns.

At an all too quick 90 minutes, 'Croupier' could have benefited from an extra quarter hour in its closing stages. But for refusing to lie down and let his film die and for returning some much needed cred to British cinema, Hodges deserves another roll of the dice - and just about every other luck on the rebound metaphor you care to mention.

Harry Guerin