Now on Blu-ray: Paul Schrader’s Captivating ‘The Card Counter’

GameStop, Inc.

The Card Counter Review

A man sits alone at a table, pen in hand, pad of paper in front, and a bottle of hard booze to the side. He sips at his drink while scribbling down his thoughts. If this sounds somewhat familiar, it’s because it’s a feature of many of the works of writer-director Paul Schrader. Whether it’s in his classic script for Taxi Driver or his acclaimed feature First Reformed or his latest examination of solitude and despair The Card Counter, Schrader utilizes this device to take beyond the mere plot of his story but deep into the psyche of his characters. Whereas some might see this as a sign of a creator stuck in a rut, Paul Schrader has been delivering stellar work for decades and is unconcerned with lazy, reductive examinations of his work. And if you get hung up on the surface of Schrader’s work, you’ll miss the ever-evolving examination of deeply human feelings of alienation and despair that are often shaped and exacerbated by larger political and social forces.

Oscar Isaac stars as William Tell, a gambler with the ability to count cards, as indicated by the film’s title. However, behind his steely gaze lies a lot of secrets. His name is an alias. He hides the details of his military past. Even though he’s able to mathematically gain an edge when gambling, he doesn’t go to high stakes tables as to not gain attention. During his travels across the country at various casinos, he meets a number of colorful characters, including LaLinda (Tiffany Haddish) who offers to stake William if he wants to play at higher stakes tables in the future. William also encounters Cirk (Tye Sheridan), who likes to remind everyone that it’s “Kirk with a C,” the son of a soldier that William served beside. As hard as he’s tried to put the past behind him, the arrival of Cirk promises to dredge up the past pain and the consequences suffered for his past actions.

The reality for William is that he’s spent eight years in a military prison for his role in the ghastly torture that took place at Abu Ghraib. Cirk’s father was also imprisoned for his role in executing the orders to carry out inhumane torture from his superiors, and Cirk’s father fell heavily into alcoholism before taking his own life. William and Cirk’s father faced consequences for their actions while the architects of this grotesque program of torture and abuse. Cirk wants to team with William to murder Major John Gordon (Willem Dafoe), who escaped all accountability and continues to lead a life of prominence, giving speeches to military and police conventions.

What makes The Card Counter, like First Reformed before it, so powerful is the way that Schrader is able to channel his own outrage at America’s moral failure into fascinating characters that are struggling to maintain their grip on their own sanity in an insane nation. The existential crisis that William finds himself enmeshed is one we see repeatedly play out in real life, like the nation’s complete inability to actually reckon with its failures, geopolitically and morally, in its seemingly never-ending “War on Terror.” After all, a society that fails to confront its failures is doomed to repeat them, possibly more egregiously in the future.

Schrader’s direction in The Card Counter is often kind of stoic, reflecting the demeanor of its main character. The film doesn’t just take us deep into the mindset of its lead, but it also establishes the passage of time as hour after hour passes as countless hands of cards are dealt. But then when going into flashbacks of Abu Ghraib, Schrader goes for broke. He uses extremely wide-angle lenses in long Steadicam shots that creates a nightmare-like distortion to the images of torture and degradation. If Abu Ghraib represents the madness of a country that lost its morality, the skewed imagery represents just how warped America’s moral compass has become.

The Card Counter also boasts some incredible performances. Oscar Isaac is steely and detached as the eponymous card counter. At once, it’s understandable that years of incarceration has made it easy for him to leave any situation and stay within the confines of his own mind. It’s also a way to convey the character’s intense focus and concentration as he calculates his odds and the remaining cards in the deck. Perhaps the biggest surprise performance in The Card Counter is that of Tiffany Haddish. Over the past few years, Haddish has really broken out as a rambunctious, hilarious performer in comedies like Girls Trip and Bad Trip. Here’s she’s much more subdued, and it’s a welcome change of pace that really illustrates the breadth of her talent. Haddish’s LaLinda is a character of quiet confidence that often hides behind a wry smile. And yet in this world of cold calculation and cutthroat odds there’s a warmth to LaLinda, and it’s fascinating to behold her slowly growing infatuation with William.

The Card Counter is another excellent film by Paul Schrader. While it may not be as great as First Reformed, it’s still another example of Schrader as a moralist examining what morality means in modern America. Schrader interrogates the difference between the nation’s professed ideals and its actions, and does so in an engrossing drama that isn’t about lecturing the audience or pandering to preexisting political beliefs. Asking tough questions of ourselves and taking deep look into the mirror proves to be another winning hand for Paul Schrader.

The Card Counter
  • Overall Score


A well-acted. masterfully written and directed drama from writer-director Paul Schrader, The Card Counter is a captivating drama that examines the moral rot left behind by some of America’s failures in its darkest moments on the War on Terror.

Anytime Costumes

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
Luke Dimyan Talks About Portraying Judas Iscariot in, ‘The Chosen’ – Interview

Luke Dimyan Talks About Portraying Judas Iscariot in, ‘The Chosen‘, with...

Brett Harvey Talks ‘Breaking Olympia: The Phil Heath Story’

International Award Winning Director and Writer, Brett Harvey takes us  into...

‘Wednesday’ Comes to Blu-ray on Tuesday from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

‘Wednesday‘ Comes to Blu-ray on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, from Warner...

Event News Event Reviews
It’s Showtime! ‘Beetlejuice’ is a Hit at Segerstrom Center of the Arts – Review

It’s Showtime! ‘Beetlejuice‘ is a Hit at Segerstrom Center of the...

‘MJ the Musical’ Chronicles the Life of the ‘King of Pop’ Running at Segerstrom – Review

‘MJ the Musical‘ is the Ultimate Stage Adaptation, Chronicling the life...

Aiden Sinclair and Michael Rangel Talks ’57 Ghosts’ Aboard the Queen Mary Séance

Aiden Sinclair and Apparitionist, Michael Rangel Discuss their new Theatrical Séance...

Automotives Football MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Olympic Runner Colleen Quigley ‘On The Road to Paris’

Team USA Olympic Runner, Colleen Quigley is On The Road to...

Paralympian Swimmer Ahalya Lettenberger On The Road to Paris

Team USA Paralympian Swimmer, Ahalya Lettenberger is On The Road to...

Ultimate Women of Wrestling Comes to the Globe Theatre – Interview

Ultimate Women of Wrestling Comes to the Globe Theatre on Sunday,...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse, battle at the Infernal gate pt 2

Oh Bruh, you did NOT just quote "Predator"!

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse – Battle at the Infernal Gate pt 1


Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse – SID SPEAKS!

"We Demons! Let's go CRUNK on this punk-ass world!"

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs & Sketches’ – Interview

Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs &...

Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her Career in the Arts

First Generation Assyrian-Chaldean, Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her...

Louden Swain Headlining Los Angeles Show at The Echo

Press Release – Louden Swain are headlining Los Angeles show at...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Gameplay Trailer

The first Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League gameplay trailer was revealed during...

Wonder Woman Game
Wonder Woman Game Announced By DC and WB Games

Wonder Woman game will feature the iconic hero in a 3rd...

MultiVersus brings Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny, and More

MultiVersus is bringing Shaggy, Harley Quinn, Jake, Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny,...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Gary Morgenstein Talks ‘A Dugout to Peace’ the Final Installment of his Trilogy

Gary Morgenstein Talks About ‘A Dugout to Peace‘ the final installment...

Chris Clews Is ‘Raised on the 80s’ and Shares Those Life Lessons

Chris Clews was ‘Raised on the 80s‘ and Shares Those Life...

Roye Okupe Brings Authentic African Representation to HBO Max and Cartoon Network

Nigerian-American, Roye Okupe brings authentic African representation to HBO Max and...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand Demo

The new ‘Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand‘ is ready to ship...

Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the ‘Good Flour’

Canadian Super Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the...

Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide
Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

The Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide is now available to help...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Episode 38: Hamid Rahmanian

Join Whitney Grace as she speaks with artist Hamid Rahmanian, who...

No Preview
Toon-In Talk Episode 37: Niki Smith

Whitney Grace interviews graphic novel writer and artist Niki Smith about...

Toon-In Talk Episode 36: Rob Paulsen

Rob Paulsen takes some time from his busy voice acting schedule...