By Tara Coffey
Are you on the lookout for a classic dramatic film? Well, look no further because I have the perfect movie for you. “The Card Counter” is a great movie for anyone who is a fan of the drama genre. Directed by Paul Schrader and starring Oscar Isaac, this movie fully captures the essence of drama from start to finish, through the acting, camera work, use of sound and music and an amazing screenplay.
William Tell, played by Issac, is an ex-military serviceman who ended up in jail. To help pass the time in prison, Tell learns how to count cards. Once he is released from jail, Tell begins going to casinos and betting small to win small. Tell informs the audience that he bets and wins small to avoid being stopped by security guards at the casinos.
Tell, who just wants to play cards anonymously, then meets a young man named Cirk. Both Tell and Cirk share an enemy from the past, Major John Gordo, played by Willem Dafoe, and Cirk is set on destroying this man. Tell wants to straighten out Cirk, help settle his debts and move on from the past. Tell informs audiences that this is his way of atoning for the pain he caused many inmates during his life as a prison guard.
Issac goes above and beyond expectations in his portrayal of this character. Even though Issac, who is best known for his work in the “Star Wars” franchise, plays the same intense type of role in “The Card Counter” he excels at bringing Tell to life. Issac’s portrayal of Tell is unlike any other character I have seen from him. Issac usually displays a very direct and non-emotional demeanor. However, there are certain scenes that showcase the talent Issac possesses. There is one scene where Tell is informing Cirk about his time spent as a prison guard. He informs Cirk about the abuse he was forced to enact and was taught to do by his superiors, and the performance Issac brings to this scene tugs at the heartstrings of viewers.
Tye Sheridan, who portrays Cirk, also brings an amazing performance to the movie. Sheridan, who is known for the movie “Ready Player One,” portrays a completely different type of character in this movie. “The Card Counter” is a very dramatic and intense movie, and Sheridan’s role is not any different, and he knocked it out of the park. Sheridan is believable and conveys the persona of an angry kid who wants revenge on the man who he claims destroyed his family. Sheridan deserves credit for shocking viewers with his performance from his typical stereotyped roles.
Dafoe is our villain in this film. Dafoe, who has played the bad guy on the big screen before, only appears briefly in this film. In a movie with a 112-minute run-time, Dafoe appears in about 15 minutes of the whole film. However, Dafoe’s portrayal of Gordo in those few minutes captures the essence of the character, allowing audiences to despise him just as the main characters do.
Tiffany Haddish plays the last major character in this movie, La Linda, who is an acquaintance of Tell from the gambling world. Haddish provides a small comic relief in her subtle one-liners throughout the film. The chemistry shown between Tell and La Linda is another small escape from the intensity of this film, and Issac and Haddish shine in this aspect.
Overall, “The Card Counter” is the perfect choice for someone looking for an intense, dramatic film. However, be advised that there are some jarring scenes, involving violence and gruesome acts that may be triggering for some viewers. Due to its intense nature, this movie is also one that you need to pay attention to. Otherwise, you may miss some crucial details needed to help understand the full story. Be sure to check out this incredible film, playing now in AMC Theaters.
Tara Coffey, Senior radio broadcasting major
Originally published in the 9/22/21 issue.