Told with Paul Schrader’s trademark cinematic intensity, this is a revenge thriller centers around William Tell (Oscar Isaac), an ex-military interrogator turned gambler who’s existence on the casino trail is shattered when approached by a vulnerable and angry young man seeking assistance in the execution of revenge on a military colonel. Seeing an opportunity for redemption through Tell’s relationship with Cirk (Tye Sheridan), while constantly struggling to wrangle the ghosts of his past decisions. It’s the type of behavior often associated with military PTSD, especially from those who actively fought or were involved in some intense interrogation torture techniques leaving a scar of guilt in their subconscious psyche.
In general, The Card Counter is a lethargic burn as we witness Tell perfecting counting cards in prison and upon release checking into rooms where he methodically covers the entire room in white sheets and tied off with twine cords. However, the cast makes this film work on multiple levels. Oscar Isaac is a movie star in the true sense of the word whose charisma and smoldering silence draws you in unapologetically. But, when paired with powerhouse Tiffany Haddish (La Linda), their chemistry transforms into absolute fire. I seriously had the urge to grab a cigarette and I don’t even smoke. in comedy, but inhabiting a strong, in charge woman who is confident and in control of herself and others. Plus, it was nice to see Haddish inhabit a role that isn’t rooted Tye Sheridan (Cirk) is fantastic as he straddles that line of pretending to be in control adult, but is still a little boy who wants his way by any means necessary.
On the cinematic tip, Paul Schrader invokes some really cool sound and camera tricks ranging from intense sound heart beats, breathing and chaotic heavy metal infused within a hallway scenes through a fish focus lens. My favorite shot was a nod to The Graduate with a shot of Oscar as he confronts Gordo(Willem Dafoe) in is own home. Yet, the way he shot that interrogation scene with Cirk creating an intense, unease resulting in holding your breath to point of not knowing when to exhale again.
Produced by Focus Features, The Card Counter will shake up your emotions while peaking your interest in educating you on the inside world of gamblers, their world and their vices – past and present