The Card Counter

The Card Counter ★★★★

The Card Counter is a Paul Schrader movie, so you know it’s going to be revisiting his old concerns and motifs—a regretful loner looks for a way toward redemption. Here, this is rendered as a blend of Schrader’s last two outings, First Reformed (a masterpiece) and The Dying of The Light/Dark (a clumsy failure). The post-9/11 politics are unavoidable, as is the self-flagellation.

My one hangup here is the inherent uncoolness of the modern American gambling scene—like the sponsor shirt Oscar Isaac’s protagonist is offered, and like his flag-happy poker opponent, it’s all just so cornball. Contrast this with the more elegant churchy aesthetics in First Reformed. 

But all is forgiven as the movie builds and releases in the crucial final moments. Schrader achieves a romantic sweep here, emotionally potent and directed with an eye to match. Good stuff.

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