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  • Writer's pictureRob Ervin

Rob Reviews "The Card Counter"

Alright, everyone: let’s go back to school for a second. Remember when you had to take Literature class and your instructor went over the various types of themes for stories? There was man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. beast, etc. My personal favorite was man vs. himself, where the journey is more about self-discovery and growth than anything else, and Paul Schrader’s “The Card Counter” has a TON of it.

In this dark and brooding tale, Oscar Issac plays William Tell (roll with me here… no pun intended), a man dealing with his dark past and out of prison traveling the country making money playing cards and using the skills he learned while he was away to make a decent living. Along the way, he meets La Linda (Tiffany Haddish) who he strikes up a business relationship and more and Cirk (Tye Sheridan), who fuels a fire he may or may not want to have stoked from a figure in said past (Willem Defoe) while trying to make a better life for all involved.

It is unfortunate to me that this film may not get the love it truly deserves. There are those that will see this trailer and expect it to be a lot more action-packed than it truly is, but don’t let that deter you from this film; simply put, this is a character study that works on EVERY level. The gambling part of the story (although it takes up a lot of the film) is actually a small part of the much larger picture that keeps everything moving. Isaac is his normal brilliant self and really reminded me of an early ‘90s Andy Garcia in his portrayal of a man whose rage lies just below the surface but keeps it at bay (but not by much), while Sheridan kind of does what he does as the angry and perhaps misguided young man that Tell takes under his wing in a kind of “Lone Wolf and Not-So Cub” relationship.

The real test here is Haddish, who is dipping her toe into dramatic waters here. I was intrigued on how she would play La Linda, and at first I was worried. Her first scene with Isaac seemed to be her falling into her comedic-type of character, but once that relationship is established she seems to settle into the character very nicely. I truly enjoyed her performance here and hope that it propels her to grow in her craft more because I now am convinced that the talent is truly there.

I believe that if the right frame of mind is there, mass audiences could really see this film for the greatness that it truly is. For those that like to have all kinds of stuff going on all the time, “The Card Counter” may be a film that you watch in the comfort of your own home to digest it piece by piece. It truly is worth the time and investment with the understanding that there ARE some graphic imagery involved, so keep the little ones away.

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