The Card Counter: Film Review


Rejoice, Oscar Isaac fans – he’s back on our screens already! Less than a month after his appearance in Dune, we get to watch him as the leading man in Paul Schrader‘s The Card Counter.

This revenge thriller tells the story of William Tell (Isaac), an ex-military interrogator-turned-gambler who is haunted by the ghosts of his past. These dark memories are brought closer to the surface when Cirk (Tye Sheridan), the son of Tell’s former colleague, bumps into him at a hotel and ends up following him and his associate La Linda (Tiffany Haddish) on the poker tournament circuit.

I went into The Card Counter completely cold and genuinely expected a thriller about gambling and someone getting into trouble for counting cards – and I was very mistaken! Schrader’s film is an intimate and complex study of a man who is looking for redemption for his past sins and the story goes in a completely unexpected direction and gradually builds towards an intense conclusion.

However, the pace was too slow and occasionally I found my attention waning, plus I thought the film was emotionally sterile and I didn’t love how Schrader decided to handle certain moments in an understated and subtle way instead of going for the most obvious yet most satisfying option. Without getting into details, there were a few scenes I would have preferred to see play out on screen instead of our imagination having to fill in the blanks.

Although I had issues with the storytelling, I cannot fault the performances. Isaac is impressive as a man who appears calm and collected on the surface but is actually wrestling with the thoughts of what he’s done and trying to keep them buried. Haddish is best known for her comedy work, so it was refreshing to see her playing a straight, dramatic role as La Linda and I found her totally captivating. Sheridan didn’t let the team down as a young boy fuelled by revenge and Willem Dafoe makes a small but pivotal and memorable appearance.

The Card Counter wasn’t quite for me but I appreciated many things about it, particularly the cast.

In cinemas Friday 5th November

Rating: 3 out of 5.