The Card Counter

The Card Counter ★★★½

With The Card Counter, filmmaker Paul Schrader continues to make films in the "man and his chamber" style, as he has done with many of his other previous works.

Many people believe that at this point in his career, any film of Schrader's that emerges from him now is repetitious of him, considering that 80 percent of his prior films are essentially the same in ways as his most recent one at the time is.

One of the primary reasons for this is that of how much filmmaker Robert Bresson's work has had a considerable effect on him throughout his career, which some perceive to be too excessive at this point in time. This is especially noticeable here, as he repeats the identical conclusion taken directly from the end of Bresson's film Pickpocket.

And this isn't the first time he's done this, from the top of my head (without giving anything away), since he had reached the same conclusion here as he did with two of his previous flicks. As both American Gigalo and his film, Light Sleeper, took the Pickpocket finale verbatim many years ago before The Card Counter did it.

Typically, if I saw any other type of filmmaker do something sort of like this, I would be pretty inclined to go call out their shenanigans due to how weary I would be with them at this point.

But, with him and his movies, and how I personally feel about them, I don't see much of an issue at this point because, well, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Look, I'll confess that my feelings towards this film are a little skewed at the end of the day. Because I'll be the first to admit that nothing makes me feel more hot and heavy than seeing a motherfucker in a Paul Schrader film giving an internal monologue over voiceover narration aloud.

Oh, and don't even get me started on when we get the voiceover being done as we observe the main character undertaking it while writing it all down in a journal because that stuff feels like movie magic in my eyes.

Nevertheless, regardless of how I feel about Schrader and his works, I wouldn't go so far as to say that The Card Counter is some kind of masterpiece, in my opinion.

Because, in the end, I do believe that the picture doesn't quite fit together—granted, based on my final rating here, you might have come to notice that right away. Because, as I admit, not everything here works out as well as it might.

Like, for instance, Schrader's preference to film all of his flashback sequences in the Abu Ghraib prison here with Oscar Isaac and Willem Defoe all while in a bird's eye type shot, all accompanied by a filter that resembles one of those funky mirrors that make you look goofy and shit whenever you look at yourself in them. Because this shit left me feeling more frizzy than fucking Ms. Frizzle.

And, while I like Isaac's performance in this film, I had some misgivings about Tiffany Haddish, his co-star. Her presence here didn't feel quite right, and it wasn't so much that she was miscast as it was that she didn't have enough to do in her part here to generate such a strong overall impression of hers in the end.

Nevertheless, I had a great time seeing this movie. It appears that I was the only one in my showing who did, as I overheard several people expressing that they wished they had watched anything else playing or wished they could get their money back afterward.

Oh well, I guess that's what happens when, of all things, a Paul Schrader film is released in wide release and plays at a multiplex alongside something like Free Guy.

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