Presented and produced by Martine Scorsese. Those words carry some weight in regard to the film world. The Card Counter boasts both.
After getting out of Leavenworth after over 8 years in prison, all William Tell (Oscar Isaac – Ex Machina, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker) wants to do is return to his life of playing cards at casinos across the United States. He is a really good player who has gotten even better during his stint in jail. His skill is noticed by La Linda (Tiffany Haddish – Bad Trip, Like a Boss), a gambling financier. He first turns down her offer to bankroll his playing then circumstances change.
The change comes about due to William being approached by a young man named Cirk (Tye Sheridan – X-Men: Apocalypse, Ready Player One). Cirk is looking for revenge on a man who is also a part of William’s past. The man is a military colonel. He wants William’s help in accomplishing this as he was also a member of the military. In fact, it is revealed over the course of the film that William was an ex-military interrogator.
Seeing a chance at redemption, William takes on Cirk as his protege and companion as he travels around to different casinos. At the same time, he takes on La Linda as his backer as he wants to win the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Keeping Cirk away from this revenge plan proves to be too much and William is once again forced to be the man he used to be.
When you see director Paul Schrader’s name flash across the screen it strikes you that you have seen his name before. Yes, you have. Schrader wrote the film Taxi Driver. Now you understand why Scorsese is a part of the film. Also, the tone of the film. It has that inner dialogue heavy script as well as themes like loneliness and troubled people. All this makes for a slow moving film with an intriguing thriller storyline featuring an anti-hero you just want to get to know better.
Rare is the actor who can take on a role like this and make something of it. Something people want to watch. Oscar Isaac is exactly this kind of actor. He has forged a career out of taking on atypical roles in “different” films. The guy is an actor’s actor. Meaning he does it to act and not to gain fame or fortune. His films are not going to make a ton at the box office…except may the Star Wars and X-Men films. But the films he does take on are nuanced and layered. Films which force you to think and feel.
Schrader has written and directed a film that draws you in. Slowly and quietly. An examination of people, of their lives, morals, and how things work. Another chapter in the dark but interesting book Schrader has been writing for decades.