The Card Counter

The Card Counter

William Tell? Cirk with a C? La Linda (LL) “like Lady Luck”? Ahem. Please. Low-key obnoxious & self-aggrandizing right off the bat with the silly names, background whispers, and off-kilter connections. Nothing—not even the solemn narration—rings true.

Feels as if Schrader went to a celebrity line-up & said, all right, I’ll take you, you, and uh, yeah, you, and then voilà. Main cast. I love Oscar, but he’s robotic to caricature here (vs, say, Gosling’s brand of stoicism in Drive) brooding, journaling, reciting lines. And yes, I get it. He’s troubled. Isaac does his damndest, but it’s mostly lifeless, even in moments of emotional display. Sheridan’s a cross between Ansel Elgort & Miles Teller except absent of charm or personality. And Tiffany Haddish—whew. Loudly out of place, especially in the love interest angle, like she knows it too & doesn’t wanna be there either. Painful to watch on multiple levels ‘cause I know everyone involved is better in anything else. 

Sad mess. Mix in intermittent voiceover explaining counting cards and poker as some sort of existential stand-in, and you’ve got an overdetermined exercise at conveying a story of—wait for it—violence and redemption. Finale feels absurd & gratuitous with an air of black and white sermonizing so acute, it numbs knee-jerk reaction. 

Only respite is Willem Dafoe. At least we can always count on him.

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