Paul Schrader is back, and if you can believe it, it looks like he’s got another lurid tale of human depravity and regret to cheer us up. And unlike his last movie, 2017’s absolutely fantastic First Reformed, The Card Counter looks like it’s going to be a little faster-paced than the meditative Reformed. A spoonful of sugar never hurt. (We’re really hoping that we’re the only publication referencing Mary Poppins in our Card Counter coverage).
The Card Counter stars Oscar Isaac as William Tell, a man who loves poker, whiskey, and furniture covered in sheets. Tell, presumably, has no “tell” in the poker sense—and also bears no relation to famed folk hero Willam Tell. An ex-military interrogator, Tell picks up card counting in prison, where he also is subjected to some kind of atrocity at the hands of Willem Dafoe and threatens others with his bloody smile. As if that weren’t bad enough, he’s also got a skeezy-looking Tye Sheridan and a confident-as-all-hell Tiffany Haddish egging him on. “Count the cards,” they whisper. “It’s the thing you’re the best at. You’re the card counter!” At least that’s what we assume happens. Well, we would if the movie weren’t hurtling toward the depths of misery like so much of Schrader’s work.
Still probably best known for his collaborations with Martin Scorsese, who produced The Card Counter, Schrader wrote Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Bringing Out The Dead. He’s also directed quite a few classics of his own, including Blue Collar, Hardcore, and American Gigalo. Schrader’s last picture, First Reformed, earned the Hollywood iconoclast some of the best reviews of his career and his first Oscar nomination. We here at The A.V. Club called it, “Schrader’s best film in a very long time,” so put that in your pipe and smoke it. Since then, we’ve been closely monitoring his Facebook page for any more stan posts about Taylor Swift, reports of “cancel culture” ruining his poker games, and news about upcoming projects. Back in April, he teased a new collaboration with his old pal Scorsese, a three-year series about the origins of Christianity. Unfortunately, we haven’t heard much about “Jesus Christ: Origins” since then. The Card Counter will have to do in the meantime.
The Card Counter deals its way into theaters on September 10.