6.5/10 My 17th Most Anticipated Film of 2021, “The Card Counter” comes from Paul Schrader, whose last film “First Reformed” was a damn near masterpiece until it fell apart near the very end. “First Reformed” ending on a sour note didn’t detour my high expectations for this film and while the ending doesn’t fall apart this time around, a couple characters have some major issues that prevent this from greatness. Before we take a look at the film’s two glaring issues, we must acknowledge all this film accomplishes. The cast is phenomenal with the always reliable Oscar Isaac being the stand out and slipping in perfectly alongside other Schrader leading men. Tiffany Haddish isn’t normally someone I think of when it comes to dramatic acting but she gives the best performance I’ve ever seen her give here. The film is dark in both a literal and metaphorical sense. Despite the bright and colorful casino lights, the entire film is covered in the darkness of night with cheap hotel rooms providing even more muted colors. The soundtrack was fitting and gave me “True Detective” vibes (especially season two) but the score really stood out to me as being one of the best of 2021. Schrader is excellent at dialogue and establishing mood/tone and even some of his scene transitions alongside his editor were top notch. There is a lot to admire in this film but that brings us to the problems, both dealing with the script and Schrader’s characters. The biggest problem is the appropriately named William Tell’s (Oscar Isaac) motivations. He breaks his normal habits and routines and upends his life to help a young man in the film (Tye Sheridan) yet we are never told why. Tell does have guilt and regret from things he has done in the past so I can partially understand taking pity upon Cirk (Sheridan) but to go to the extreme lengths that he does…I didn’t buy it. Tell is the strong, silent type so he isn’t much of a talker but his motivations could have been better conveyed through Schrader’s strong use of narration. Another major problem is La Linda, played by Haddish. Her character honestly doesn’t have much of an impact on the film and if you took her character completely out, not much would change. Her character feels a little forced in so despite her fine performance, I kept wondering to myself if her being there was even necessary or not. One final problem that wasn’t as egregious dealt with a similarity between this and Schrader’s previous effort, “First Reformed”. Both films deal with a struggling leading man who provide narration while they drink alcohol and hand write down thoughts/notes in a journal in solitude. This process is explained in “First Reformed” but feels recycled here as no explanation is given as to why Tell is journaling. While I loved the moody, atmospheric world that Schrader has created for us, shrouded in darkness, the script falls a bit short so I hope Schrader doesn’t repeat himself and is more clear with character motivations once his next film, “Master Gardener”, finds its way into cinemas.

#RagingBill / #Catch22People / #CantTellABookByItsCover / #BoysTrip / #XMilitaryMenApocalypse / #TexasScoldEm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s