The Card Counter is a masterpiece film that keeps you thinking, and it will blindside you in many inviting ways. The film has elements of greed, gambling, and success, and it has an intensity that comes from focusing on a brilliant criminal with a dark past who can’t put that past behind him.
Directed by Paul Schrader, The Card Counter is the story of William Tell, played by Oscar Isaacs. Tell is an ex-military interrogator. The film starts with Tell in jail, developing his card counting craft. Tell has a poker face that never wavers throughout the film, and he is not a gambler to mess with.
After Tell hones his card counting craft he hits the poker tournament circuit and makes big bucks by flying beneath the radar. Tell’s quiet life of making bank via poker is interrupted when he encounters an enemy from his past, Gordo, played by Willem Dafoe. But Tell meets Cirk, played by Tye Sheridan, who is also an enemy of Gordo, and the two team up to travel the poker tournament circuit. Their efforts to thwart Gordo lead to some interesting but sometimes weird vibes between the two. Tell also has the help of, and develops a relationship with, financier La Linda, played by Tiffany Haddish.
The Card Counter is pure Paul Schrader, as he plays mind games with his audience and keeps us questioning who to trust. Oscar Isaacs is a revelation in the film and Tye Sheridan is also brilliant.
If you love Schrader’s previous work, or if you like films about casinos and high stakes risks, you will love this film. Four stars for The Card Counter.