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‘The Card Counter’ review

Oscar Isaac stars in the gambling movie.

The Card Counter
Credit: Focus Features

Gambling movies were very popular in Hollywood in the past few decades. While the number of these movies have dwindled in recent years, there are still a few hits here and there that show the fun and the dangers gambling brings.

Gambling is a very hot topic in the US currently and this movie seems to have hit screens at the perfect time. Not only is it appearing in more and more films, legal sports gambling across the US is also rolling out at a phenomenal rate, with new states joining the fray.

It’s not just sports betting grabbing the headlines. Online casinos are also becoming available in more states and players are enjoying playing their favorite games that were once only available in casinos, such as MGM slots online, blackjack, and roulette.

Thanks to the rising popularity of online gambling, 2021 was the perfect time for a new gambling movie. Directed by Paul Shrader with his visionary cinematic intensity, it’s a pitch-perfect crime drama starring the fantastic Oscar Isaac.

Produced by Martin Scorsese

‘The Card Counter’ was directed by Paul Shrader and produced by his good friend Martin Scorsese. Shrader may not be the household name like Scorsese, but he has many good movies behind his name such as ‘American Gigolo’ and ‘Affliction’. He has worked with the great Scorsese on ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘Raging Bull’, although his big success in Hollywood came with his 2017 smash-hit ‘First Reformed’.

As the name suggests, ‘The Card Counter’ is a movie about a character deeply involved in the world of gambling. It stars Oscar Isaac as William ‘Tell’ Tellich, an ex-military interrogator turned gambler. Tellich is living a peaceful and solitary life making money from casinos by card counting while flying under the radar.

Tell has a secret he won’t share with anyone. He was convicted of torturing prisoner in Abu Ghraib and was a fall guy for a major together with a colleague. The colleague’s son Cirk visits Tell one day seeking revenge against Major Gordo (played by William Defoe). The two bond over gambling while Cirk plans his revenge and Tell trying to persuade him out of it.

We won’t go into more details so we don’t spoil things for you. The movie is told through Shrader’s trademark lenses and intense storytelling. He had the biggest success in Hollywood as a writer, and as The Card Counter shows, Shrader can be a great director as well.

Oscar-Worthy Performance by Oscar Isaac

The movie may not have been so successful is an actor other than Oscar Isaac nabbed the lead role. Isaac is now a big star in Hollywood, especially after the release of Dune. His impeccable acting is on full display in ‘The Card Counter’, which may even nab an Oscar nomination for the Guatemala-American actor.

All throughout the movie, his cool and deep approach to the character shows all of Isaac’s pure strengths. There are facades of complexity behind the Tellich character that Oscar Isaac manages to dive into perfectly.

His on-screen chemistry with Tiffany Haddish in ‘The Card Counter’ is fantastic as well, as are Defoe and Tye Sheridan (Cirk). The movie is a great drama built around the subject of gambling led by one of the most talented actors of this generation.


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