Directed by Paul Schrader (First Reformed) and co-starring Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan and Willem Dafoe, this chilly tale of a serviceman-turned-convict-turned-gambler just premiered at the Venice Film Festival.
Fresh from the screening, critics have begun to share their first-look reviews online.
The Guardian wrote:
"Schrader directs with the unhurried air of a man who has told some variation of this story many times before. The central relationships can be a little schematic, while the plot slaloms in and out of plausibility. Still, the cast keeps it honest and there is much to relish in the film's moody, meditative intensity.
"At its best, The Card Counter is wonderfully retro, like an old-fashioned noir."
Screen Daily concluded:
"The film is all about what is happening below the surface – in William [Tell, Isaac's character], and in America. Its odd meld of drab suburban casinos, wrapped motel rooms, nightmarish Iraqi torture sequences and military correctional facilities where the furniture is bolted to the floor, all build to a video-artist vision that comes bursting surprisingly out of an old-school box – and results in one more male-slanted Paul Schrader script about a haunted man at a crossroads."
Meanwhile, Little White Lies had this to say:
"It's a supremely compelling tale leavened by its wry humour and a subtle commentary on the essential emptiness of American life. Indeed, the only truly successful characters in the film are one of William's regular poker opponents, a Ukrainian man styled as Mr USA who, along with a pair of lackeys, chants, 'U-S-A! U-S-A!' everywhere he's seen.
"Tiffany Haddish turns in a fine performance as a svelte circuit regular, and draws out an unlikely strain of poignancy from the otherwise samurai-focused Bill."
A snippet from TheWrap reads:
"Even when considering how it's graced with splashes of stylistic bravado and how vigorously head-on it distills its heady themes (all to an extent rehashed from Schrader's own body of work) — not to mention the decision to keep part of the gruesomeness off-screen and concluding the piece on a semi-hopeful note — The Card Counter still doesn't come across as urgent or magnetic as other efforts.
"Perhaps this represents a shift for Schrader into storytelling with a slightly more uplifting energy, or at least one where not every part of his protagonist's journey burns down to the ground. That's a happy ending in his terms."
IndieWire awarded the movie a Grade B+, noting:
"This is an anti-romantic glimpse into the most abyssal pockets of American nowhere, full of detritus left behind by all the Danny Oceans of the world. It's about motels and strip malls and flashing lights that blink so fast they might let you forget where you are for a minute or two.
"The Card Counter may not be quite as narcotised as a Nicolas Winding Refn movie, but the numb camera movements and the whiskey drone of Robert Levon Been's original soundtrack leave you with a palpable understanding of how someone could get stuck in these places until the end of time."
Finally, The Hollywood Reporter decided:
"It's good to see Haddish expand her range in a dramatic role, playing against type as a driven yet cool customer in a field where reading people is an essential skill. In one scene that's a visual stunner, La Linda coaxes William outside his ascetic routine of hotels, casinos and generic eateries to take a stroll in the illuminated Missouri Botanical Garden at night.
"She's literally inviting him to consider the possibilities of beauty and vitality, and the chemistry between the two actors really clicks during their exchanges in this magical setting, so alien to the world the film otherwise inhabits."
The Card Counter premiered at Venice Film Festival, and will hit US cinemas on Friday, September 10.
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