William Tell just wants to play cards. 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 military colonel. Tell sees a chance at redemption through his relationship with Cirk. But keeping Cirk on the straight-and-narrow proves impossible, dragging Tell back into the darkness of his past.
I had a little trouble following the story, and I thought it was somewhat dark. I am sure there is an audience for this kind of production, but I struggled to make it to the end. On the plus side, Oscar Isaac did a good job portraying his part.⭐⭐⭐
A confused mess... Spoilers towards the end are flagged. The main storyline is only driven by a strange decision by an older man to invite an obviously mentally unstable 20 something year old man on an all expenses paid road trip across America... For reasons, the mentally unstable man then decides, as any guy in his early 20's when propositioned to be escorted across country in a car by a virtual stranger as a Piaf companion, he says yes... The whole movie is spent guessing at the relationships, one minute the mentally unstable kid is "an insolent little prick" the next he's "a good kid that needs help". You see the love interest saddened by the fact the main character regards her, essentially a stranger, as a friend but then just goes with it for reasons. This whole movie is driven by weird decision after weird decision, like the inclusion of card playing, despite the name it is nothing more than a plot moving device to explain why this weird decision has a slightly different background to the previous weird decision. All in all I feel the writer tried to do too much and as a result produced very little but confusion **Spoilers below .... Spoilers below** In the end I felt like the main protagonist just deciding to take turns with the antagonist torturing each other just for reasons... Ok movie... Now it's my turn.
FULL SPOILER-FREE REVIEW @ https://www.msbreviews.com/movie-reviews/the-card-counter-spoiler-free-review "The Card Counter is a protagonist-driven narrative focused on a hauntingly captivating redemption arc intensely elevated by an exceptional lead performance from Oscar Isaac. The actor ends his remarkable year interpreting a complex, mysterious character with who viewers must connect in order to truly enjoy Paul Schrader's layered storytelling. From the effective flashbacks and rich narration to the unexpected final plot developments, the writer-director tackles guilt and moral responsibility in a somewhat convoluted manner with a few pacing issues. Despite a rather expository first act too centered on gambling information, this is a must-watch movie of the upcoming awards season. Beautifully shot, excellent performances, and a story that will stick with you after it ends." Rating: B+
I'm not quite sure what I was expecting - but this rather meandering drama left me leaving the cinema asking what or whom this film was for? Oscar Isaac ("William Tell") is a gambler - a successful, under the radar kind of fellow - with a military past steeped in trauma. He encounters a young man "Cirk" (Tye Sheridan) with whom he has something in common - both men have suffered at the hands of his former CO "Gordo" (Willem Dafoe). The older man, wishes to temper the anger and lust for revenge of the younger, and takes him under his wing. Except, well, he doesn't really. He takes him on tours of the poker games, shares his winnings, introduces him to his fixer "La Linda" (Tiffany Haddish). That, though, is all he seems to be offering the young man - a shell upon which he can become a bored, barnacle!. That's when I found myself looking at my watch. Towards the end, the plot takes a swing for left field that is not only sad, but also a precursor to an ending that is frankly really quite poor. The dialogue is strained, and though Haddish easily wins on the star front here, the rest of the cast sort of loll around in a soporific haze of emotional baggage that really is quite dreary to watch. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood, but looking around me in the cinema - plenty of other people seemed to wondering why they hadn't gone to see "Spencer" too...
It’s fitting that The Card Counter’s protagonist’s last name is Tell. Not because he has one (as played by Oscar Isaac, he doesn’t have a poker face so much as he is perennially inexpressive), but because writer/director Paul Schrader (unusually phoning it in) lazily favors ‘telling’ over 'showing.’ One would think that the dude who’s written or co-written arguably the top four Martin Scorsese films could come up with something better than a glorified poker tutorial, complete with visual aids. To put it in perspective, consider Robert Altman’s infinitely superior California Split, in which “We don’t need to know anything about gambling to understand the odyssey [the protagonists] undertake to the tracks, to the private poker parties, to bars, to Vegas, to the edge of defeat and to the scene of victory. Their compulsion is so strong that it carries us along” (Ebert). But there is no compulsion in The Card Counter; Bill Tillich, aka William Tell, is not a gambler out of weakness (like Jimmy Caan in the also superior The Gambler), but out of convenience: he is good at it – to the point that not only is he debt-free, but can afford the luxury of paying others’ debts. He’s unqualified to do anything else, but then there’s nothing he’s interested in doing. According to Bill, “The smartest bet for a rookie is red/black at roulette… You win, you walk. You lose, you go. It’s the only smart casino bet.“ It may be smart, but hardly riveting stuff. Who could possibly ever be interested in the story of a gambler who knows when to fold'em? Thus, Schrader resorts to stealing a page out of 80s pro wrestling’s playbook: namely, Middle East-related cheap heat in the form of an inexplicable subplot dealing with the torture and abuse of Abu Ghraib prisoners in Iraq. Now, there’s a gamble that doesn’t even come close to paying off.
A quintessentially Paul Schrader-esque movie. It certainly is not everyone's cup of tea. It's very dark and it's all in the head. Having friends, though, who survived Vietnam and another who still suffers PTSD from Iraq, I rather enjoyed this psychological drama. It brings a sense of closure to true atrocity of war.