THE CARD COUNTER, immersed in the gaming world – Review

Veteran New Hollywood screenwriter Paul Schrader has turned into a discreet director in recent years and returns to the movies with The Card Counter. A thriller worn by Oscar Isaac, who became an expert in card games after spending a long time in prison.

Paul Schrader and Martin Scorsese, new collaboration

Between the 70s and 2000s, Paul schrader and Martin scorsese collaborated on four films, all written by Schrader and made by Scorsese. Their first collaboration for the cinema gave birth to a work that has become emblematic of the new Hollywood which won a Palme d’Or at Cannes. It was 1976 and the movie was titled Taxi Driver. The two men subsequently worked together on works no less important in the filmography of Martin scorsese, like Raging bull then Open grave, at the dawn of the 2000s.

Paul Schrader and Martin Scorsese

It is therefore not surprising to discover the name of Martin scorsese during the opening credits of THE CARD COUNTER. A film directed this time by the screenwriter Paul schrader, with his friend Marty on executive production. In reality, Paul schrader quite quickly moved on to directing in his career. One of his best-known behind-the-camera works is American gigolo with Richard Gere in 1980. But the rest of his filmography did not make much noise, despite of a certain quality in the construction of its plots and its characters. Recently, one of his most influential films has gone almost unnoticed here. Led by an impressive Ethan hawke in the role of a priest who loses his bearings in contact with a young woman, On the road to redemption did not get a theatrical release. Luckily, his latest film worn by Oscar isaac was presented at the 47th festival of Deauville which took place this year and arrives on our screens on December 29th. Not easy to face two mastodons that are Spider-Man No Way Home and Matrix Resurrections

A mastered and retro script

THE CARD COUNTER follows the taciturn William Tell (Oscar isaac), who became particularly gifted at card games after spending almost 10 years in prison. Former soldier, he seems to have been deeply marked by a past of which very little is revealed to us and now enjoys playing small bets in blackjack and poker. The return to a simple life, until he crosses the path of a young man bruised by the suicide of his father, also an ex-soldier. The cause of this suicide would be linked to Colonel Gordo (Willem Dafoe), which William dated in the past. Touched by Cirk’s family situation (Tye Sheridan), William decides to take him under his wing and will do everything to prevent him from giving in to an act of violence. A violence that he knows well and that he no longer wants to hear about. Under the leadership of La Linda (Tiffany haddish), a matchmaker, he then crisscrosses the country’s poker tournaments to build a pot in order to clear the young man’s debts. And give it a fresh start. An unusual trio is formed and friendships will be formed.

An elegant writing lesson from a veteran who has nothing more to prove to anyone.

It would be a little easy to categorize immediately THE CARD COUNTER like yet another “screenwriter’s film” as it is more than that. In spite of a controlled script and surrounded by a rather retro aura, we can guess pretty quickly where it is heading, because we have already seen a lot of this kind of story, since the 70s precisely. Also, at first glance, THE CARD COUNTER does not intend to formally revolutionize the codes of the genre. Corn Schrader uses the voice over of his hero to share with us his moods or what he writes in his journal. Sparingly and against all odds, it works. Then the veteran continues to surprise us in his staging, with modesty and sobriety when the camera favors the off-screen when it comes to falling into a violence that has nothing more to tell us. Blasé by his past that he would like to forget, William will do everything to detach himself from it because it no longer interests him, like Paul schrader. A violence that he slept at the time on a piece of paper so that his friend Scorsese not then immortalize it with a camera, in flashes of which only he had the secret.

© Focus Features.

A new heir to Taxi Driver?

With its relaxed atmosphere and the beautiful alchemy reigning between its three main characters, THE CARD COUNTER does not however seek to deceive his world. We are indeed in front of a thriller, in which Schrader at the bend of a few sequences, does not hesitate to shoot red balls on the american military system and its rather frightening gray areas.

See as well

Due to its fairly classic and linear construction, it can even be analyzed as a mirror of Taxi Driver. One Taxi Driver new generation, starting where Travis Bickle (the prison) ends. Except that here, the love story works, that we do not travel by taxi and that we should replace Jodie foster through Tye Sheridan. And that it will be necessary to ignore the final explosion of violence, Schrader opting for an elegant camera movement associated with a judicious use of a timelapse to complete his last act.

© Focus Features.

We can easily imagine that THE CARD COUNTER isn’t going to enjoy a long lifespan in theaters, but just for the writing lesson unpacked by a veteran who has nothing more to prove to anyone, it deserves a look. Otherwise, it’s always a pleasure to find Oscar isaac and the actress Tiffany haddish is a very nice discovery at 42 years old.

Loris Colecchia


Original title : The Card Counter
Director: Paul schrader
Scenario: Paul schrader
Main actors : Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan, Willem Dafoe
Release date : December 29, 2021
Duration : 1h51min

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THE CARD COUNTER, immersed in the gaming world – Review