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Paul Schrader
Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan
Writing Credits:
Paul Schrader

A former military interrogator turned professional gambler deals with the ghosts of his past.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish DTS 5.1
English DVS
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 111 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 12/14/2021

• “A High-Stakes World” Featurette


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The Card Counter [Blu-Ray] (2021)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 9, 2021)

We last saw writer/director Paul Schrader with 2017’s First Reformed. Schrader returns with another character drama via 2021’s The Card Counter.

During a long stint in military prison, “William Tell” (Oscar Isaac) taught himself how to count cards. He now uses this skill to earn money in casinos, though he keeps a low profile and sticks with fairly small stakes games.

William’s low-key existence changes when a young man named Cirk Baufort (Tye Sheridan) approaches him. His father also spent time in a military prison and emerged damaged and violent.

Cirk blames retired Major John Gordo (Willem Dafoe) for his father’s fate and wants revenge. Despite his loner nature, William takes Cirk under his wing and attempts to keep him on the straight and narrow, all while he escalates his gambling position after an acquaintance named La Linda (Tiffany Haddish) pushes him to play for higher stakes.

As a story of a flawed character's path to possible personal redemption, Counter comes with potential, but Schrader finds nothing new or especially insightful to say. We get stuck with fairly thin roles that never become particularly interesting or involving, and the narrative wanders all over the place.

At times, it feels like Schrader wants to mess with the audience's expectations more than he wants to tell a compelling story, especially in terms of the involvement of Bill's gambling skills. I won't discuss this topic in detail so I can avoid spoilers, but Schrader definitely subverts the standard "sports movie" narrative.

And that's fine - if the movie manages to create something worthwhile otherwise. Though the title and first act set this up as a movie about gambling, I'm cool with the fact that theme acts more as a MacGuffin than as an important plot point.

I just wish Schrader had filled the movie with more interesting characters and tighter narrative. The movie feels like it jumps around in a less than smooth manner, and none of the roles even become especially engaging.

Isaac does well as our lead, though, as he brings nuance to a thin personality. Isaac manages a convincing sense of emotional deadness to Bill and manages to turn his growth into a convincing evolution.

Sheridan seems competent but forgettable, while Haddish shows no dramatic chops whatsoever. Not that I think she can't act, but she fails to turn her part into a believable human being.

That's possibly because La Linda exists more as a symbol of Bill's potential salvation than as an actual person. Still, Haddish seems flat and without nuance in the part.

I really wanted to like Card Counter and I expect better from Schrader. This one just feels like an unsatisfying dud to me, unfortunately.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus D

The Card Counter appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Overall, this was a positive image.

On a smidgen of softness ever cropped up here, mainly in some wider shots. Otherwise, the movie showed nice clarity and delineation.

Jagged edges and moiré effects failed to appear, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws also stayed away from this clean image.

In terms of palette, Counter went with an emphasis on light teal and amber. Overall, the hues were fine for their visual choices.

Blacks showed good depth, while low-light shots boasted nice clarity. This was a solid “B+“ presentation.

In terms of the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it gave us competent sonics most of the time as well as a little pep on occasion. A drama like this didn’t need to boast a rock-em, sock-em mix, so the audio seemed acceptable.

Usually, the soundfield didn’t have a lot to do, so it concentrated on good stereo music and general ambience. Every once in a while, though, the mix came to life – in a moderate manner, at least, and mainly at casinos, though the flashbacks to Tell’s military experience brought out the music in a more aggressive manner.

Audio quality was fine. Speech seemed natural and concise, without edginess or other concerns. Music appeared full, with reasonable definition.

Effects remained clear and accurate, with some pretty solid low-end response. This became an acceptable track for a character drama.

A featurette called A High Stakes World spans five minutes, 13 seconds and offers comments from writer/director Paul Schrader, poker consultant Joe Stapleton, and actors Oscar Isaac and Tiffany Haddish.

“World” looks at story/characters, cast and performances, and staging the poker scenes. This becomes a fairly superficial reel.

As its core, The Card Counter provides a story that shows promise. Unfortunately, the end result seems scattered and unfocused, so it fails to live up to expectations. The Blu-ray

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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