THE CARD COUNTER
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan, and Willem Dafoe
Director: Paul Schrader
The Card Counter is a vehicle for another fantastic Oscar Isaac performance. He keeps you engaged with his mysterious character every minute he is on screen while fitting perfectly into the film's dark and brooding tones (which Tiffany Haddish brings a welcome contrast to). Unfortunately, the film stumbles in the editing. While it has solid direction and writing, the score (or lack thereof) really messes with the flow of the film. Sometimes, it's used where it doesn't fit; other times, it's completely non-existent, leaving the film feeling unfinished. A blemish on an otherwise solid film.
The Card Counter is hypnotic. Director Paul Schrader’s slow camera and prolonged takes are reminiscent of Blade Runner, and the vibrance of the casinos and cityscapes give the movie a dreamlike feel. This feeling is enhanced by the shifting soundscapes and vocals that echo throughout the film. Oscar Isaac brings his characteristic depth and stillness to the main character and forces every actor he shares the screen with to slow to his pace - something very few performers are capable of doing. The result is an intimate confessional of a film that's going to stick with me for a long time.
A far cry from the quality of First Reformed, Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter isn't bad as much as it's difficult to get a read on. From the beginning, the film distinguishes itself as poorly shot and badly produced, with its garish lighting betraying its limited budget to ill effect. Yet, as it continues, one can sense seeds of greatness below its technical shortcomings. The writing is ambitious and Oscar Isaac is excellent (even Tiffany Haddish impresses), but Tye Sheridan feels woefully miscast. It's okay enough to pass the time, but as an awards contender? I wouldn't bet on it.
Between The Card Counter and First Reformed (among other movies he has made), I’m starting to think I’m just not a fan of writer/director Paul Schrader anymore. Like most of his recent work, The Card Counter is annoyingly slow despite featuring a compellingly brooding Oscar Isaac. There are long, quiet stretches without music or dialogue, and Tiffany Haddish is woefully miscast, failing to have a shred of chemistry with Isaac. If you want a poker movie (to be clear, this is not a poker movie despite what the marketing might lead you to believe), just watch Rounders again.