The Card Counter

The Card Counter ★★★½

A man lives in purgatory, he knows salvation isn’t something one just gets or even deserves, but striving a bit is hard to avoid, particular when one fails to avoid others. Schrader has been self conscious about those movies at least  since Light Sleeper, but this one pushes it a bit further in that the inviting familiarity becomes so central to the concept, the ascetic life style a choice, the predictable trajectory key to the film effects, even the one part Schrader didn’t mine multiple times before, Isaac/Sheridan relationship is a series of recognizable beats. It plays different in some key aspects, the gambling life style is more an allegory than a focus, this movie should really be called The Torturer, but I guess that wouldn’t get anyone in theatres. The kid thinks Dafoe’s evil absolves his father’s or Isaac’s and the later knows how much that is not true, the movie builds from the series of self-delusions that come from that. It is pointed and angry, but it is also moving through a series of projected images, the performance of lies that allow that violence to slip by, even Isaac’s punishment existence. There’s plenty of good material on power on the sidelines and I really like Isaac/Hadish dynamic, more as it is acted than written, even if her role has some of the typical flaws those parts have on Schrader’s films. Isaac is great, his body language a marvel throughout. His recoiling through all those impersonal places one of the most moving sights in any movie this year.

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