The Card Counter (15)Cast: Willem Dafoe, Tye Sheridan, Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish
Author(s): Paul Schrader
Director: Paul Schrader
Release Date: 05/11/2021
Running Time: 112mins
William Tell travels between casinos, winning modest amounts to remain under the radar. At one location, William attends a conference where Major John Gordo delivers a speech on the role of facial recognition technology in global security. Sitting in the audience is Cirk, son of a Roger Baufort, who served with William in the military. It transpires that William served eight and a half years in Leavenworth penitentiary for his role in the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
LondonNet Film Review
The Card Counter (15)
Blackjack and poker rely on skill, luck and nerve, which can be enhanced by the unethical practice of counting cards to predict the odds of the house or another player possessing a winning hand. Writer-director Paul Schrader’s slow-burning thriller illustrates the basics of counting in an early scene, suggesting we are being dealt another battle of wits and bravado at a card table. Indeed, when a veteran hustler (Oscar Isaac) takes a fresh-faced protege (Tye Sheridan) under his wing, there are echoes of the surrogate father-son relationship of Paul Newman and Tom Cruise in The Color Of Money…
The young disciple doesn’t share his mentor’s passion for gambling and when he is asked about their tour of casinos, the protege responds: “It is repetitive. I don’t know that it feels like it’s going anywhere.” Schrader’s film elicits similar feelings for the opening 45 minutes but once the filmmaker reveals his true intentions – to picks at the scabs of America’s guilt about its response to the September 11 attacks – The Card Counter ramps up suspense and chokeholds our attention. Flashbacks to Abu Ghraib using a disorienting fisheye lens, which distorts prisoner holding cells into an endlessly curving tableaux of degradation and humiliation, powerfully convey the shame that fuels the lead character’s questionable choices.
William Tell (Isaac) travels between casinos around his favourite hunting ground, Atlantic City, winning modest amounts to remain under the radar. He refuses to stay at convenient on-site hotels, preferring rundown independent motels so casino owners can’t gather his personal data. At one location, William attends a conference where Major John Gordo (Willem Dafoe) delivers a speech on the role of facial recognition technology in global security.
Sitting in the audience is Cirk (Sheridan), son of a Roger Baufort, who served with William in the military. It transpires that William served eight and a half years in Leavenworth penitentiary for his role in the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. William invites Cirk to join him on the road so he can secretly pay off Cirk’s debts with his winnings from a World Series of Poker tour as part of a syndicate of players managed by La Linda (Tiffany Haddish). Luck isn’t on William’s side.
The Card Counter builds steadily to an explosion of violence that recalls the nerve-jangling denouement of Schrader’s last film, First Reformed, which earned him an Oscar nomination. Isaac is a tightly wound ball of emotion, whose tough exterior shows chinks of humanity in playful scenes with Haddish. When La Linda tells William: “You have to be the strangest poker player I ever met,” we nod in silent agreement. The William/Cirk narrative arc feels frustratingly light given its pivotal role in the film’s overall design. In that respect, Schrader raises stakes and we call his bluff.
– Kim Hu
London Cinemas Showing The Card Counter
From: Friday 3rd December
To: Thursday 9th December
Fri 20:55; Sat/Wed 18:00
Fri 23:25; Sat 10:40; Sun 22:25
From: Friday 10th December
To: Thursday 16th December
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