60-Second Review – The Card Counter

O&A movie columnist Mark Fields’ quick take on the latest releases

Well Done but Well Worn

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

In this well-constructed but airless film, we focus on the unremarkable post-service existence of William Tell (Oscar Isaacs), who has traded his nightmarish career as an Iraq War interrogator for that of a small-stakes gambler. His below-the-radar lifestyle is challenged by his encounters with an angry young man (Tye Sheridan) seeking revenge for his father and an entrepreneurial poker manager (Tiffany Haddish). The actors, as well as Willem Dafoe in a crucial cameo role, are uniformly excellent. In particular, Haddish works surprisingly well in a role more subdued than her familiar screen persona. But the whole enterprise suffers from the austerity of writer-director Paul Schrader’s film aesthetic. The Card Counter is unrelentingly low-key and deliberate to the point where the tone challenges the viewer to stay engaged with his characters and story. One longs for a bit of lyricism or humor to focus, not detract from, the grimness.

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