First off, you need to know that Clive Owen is not only the protagonist, but also the narrator, providing running commentary via voice-over. What's key here is the fact that he refers to himself in the third person for the entire film. If that isn't enough to make you smack your forehead in frustration, wait until he splits into TWO protagonists, Jack and Jake, and starts saying things like Jake was horrified. But Jack found it quite amusing. BARF.
Jake is a struggling writer, which means there are quite a few scenes where he frowns at a computer and chain smokes. While wearing a ridiculous hat. This is my WRITER HAT! Jake is supposed to be a badass of the film noir variety, but aside from being elegantly quick with his hands as a croupier, he's actually just a douchebag. Now, this might just be me - thinking back, I kind of always see Clive Owen as a douchebag, even when he's also somewhat badass. He just takes himself a little too seriously. I mean, even when I like his movies - I think Closer is legitimately fantastic, for instance - I never particularly like his characters.
Of course, Jake being a writer and working on a novel while providing preposterous voice-overs means that - wait for it - this movie will turn out to be... the very novel he's been writing! Gasp! Who saw that coming? BAAAAAARF.
Furthermore, the movie just looks crappy. Maybe I'm spoiled, I mean, it is over 10 years old, but I expect sexy thrillers to look sharp goddamnit. I dunno. Look, I just thought the movie sucked, ok? I'm sorry. I tried. It was dismal.
But if you're looking for a quality film in a similar genre, including voice over narration, then look no further than the marvelous Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. What a delight. The voice over narration is hilarious, skillfully exploiting the humor of meta (Hey Ma and Pa Kettle, wanna get out of the goddamn frame?) and the dialogue is sharp, snappy and laugh out loud funny. While people generally go all doe-eyed over Robert Downey Jr (who is indeed fabulous in this movie, and is indeed making a great comeback, I'm just a little sick of hearing about how great he is), the real star of this film for me was Val Kilmer. Val Kilmer! Remember when he made phenomenal movies like Top Gun, Top Secret, and The Doors? And then suddenly in the mid-90s he apparently decided to devote himself to nothing but garbage? Well, he's back folks! A little chunkier, not quite as hot as we remember him, but fabulous nonetheless.
In the tradition of good action movies, the violence is potent and surprising, no-holds-barred type stuff that manages to be powerful but not disturbing, both shocking and funny. Also wonderful is the female lead, Michelle Monaghan, who isn't nearly as pathetic or irritating as most women in action/thrillers, even if she is occasionally somewhat deranged.
Overall though, a fabulously entertaining film. Do not rent Croupier. Rent Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.