The Card Counter
review by Bobby Blakey
Oscar Isaac is one of those actors that while we all know him now from his big budget franchise films of late including Star Wars, Dune and his soon to be lead in the Moon Knight series. Before this he took on a variety of unique roles and his latest film The Card Counter from director Paul Schrader looks to be taking him back to those types of films. The film features a great supporting cast as well including Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan, and Willem Dafoe.
The Card Counter follows William Tell, a gambler and former serviceman who sets out to reform a young man seeking revenge on a mutual enemy from their past. Tell just wants to play cards, but his spartan existence on the casino trail is shattered when he is approached by Cirk, a vulnerable and angry young man seeking help to execute his plan for revenge on a retired military major. Tell sees a chance at redemption through his relationship with Cirk. Gaining backing from mysterious gambling financier La Linda, Tell takes Cirk with him on the road, going from casino to casino until the unlikely trio set their sights on winning the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. But keeping Cirk on the straight-and-narrow proves impossible, dragging Tell back into the darkness of his past.
I really dig Oscar Isaac and cannot wait to see him take on Moon Knight, but this film wasn’t initially on my radar. I knew little going in outside of the cast as I never watched a trailer for it, but the cast and director were enough to peak my interest. This is one of those films that offers up great performances, an engaging story and great finale, but still might work for everyone just based on the pacing alone.
Isaac fits this role to perfection bringing his usual charisma to the part along with an aura of mystery and inner torment. It his back story element along with why he is teamed up with Tye Sheridan that makes this stand out as
more than just a poker flick. There are some well shot porker sequences, but that is not the focus of the film at its core it is so much deeper and darker. His flashbacks are shot in this cool lense that makes it as warped as his memories of the horrific past.
The supporting cast are all good with Sheridan bringing his own pain and struggles to the role. Tiffany Haddish dives right into to a more serious role like a champ and showcases even more to her performance than her usual funny persona. She has great chemistry with Isaac which makes you further by into the story and its direction. The story is simple enough on the surface, but there is a darker direction coming and the ending is great.
As mentioned the only issue that I think might be an issue for some is the pacing because it is really slow. It is a dialogue driven film with no overly exciting moments even in the poker games, but instead just lets the characters journey and torment drive the narrative. Let it play out to the very end because I think it was worth the journey and pay off.
In addition to the film this release features bonus content including a featurette taking you behind bringing this story to life. Grab your copy of The Card Counter available now on digital, Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Home Entertainment.