Once recognized as one of Hollywood’s most gifted screenwriters, Paul Schrader has since not only established himself as quite the witty Facebook troll, but also proven that he’s as talented behind the camera as he is behind his typewriter.
One thing audiences must keep in mind when booking a ticket to his latest project is that they’re setting themselves up for disappointment if they’re longing for a riveting, fast-paced, poker-centric thrill ride a la “Casino Royale” or “Molly’s Game”. Because “The Card Counter” very much ticks the boxes of a traditional Schrader character study of a complex individual haunted by demons of a previous life. In the case of Oscar Isaac’s William Tell, the ex-military interrogator found solace in games of blackjack that, not by coincidence, share a lot of resemblances with his past job. It’s obvious from the get-go that the anti-hero will require much larger changes in his life to eradicate the ghosts that have been haunting him for years now, and these changes were delivered to him in the form of La Linda, a financier played by an unrecognizable Tiffany Hadish and with whom Tell falls in love with (which culminates in what is one of the most striking scenes I have seen in a long while in theaters), and Cirk, a young man played by Tye Sheridan who will provide the protagonist with a chance at redemption.
“The Card Counter”, much like Schrader’s unsung masterpiece “First Reformed”, is a film I can see myself appreciating even more when I eventually revisit it. It’s Schrader doing what he does best, proving once more why he’s regarded as being a master at deconstructing tortured souls devoured by loneliness, doubt, or regret. A must if you’re an admirer of his work.
MOVIE'S GRADE: 7.5/10