The Card Counter – 2021 – Dark DARK story about torture
The Card Counter is one of those movies that doesn’t reveal its true nature by the title alone. I had not done my research and figured this was about some dude playing cards at casinos and getting caught counting cards. I know that counting cards aren’t exactly against the rules but if you’re too good at it you still will get escorted out and put on the casino’s black list. Or at least that’s what I’ve seen in some documentaries about the phenomenon. I haven’t got the skill and talent myself and I don’t think I ever set foot in a casino anyway. Furthermore, I was under the impression that The Card Counter was some light entertainment flick, almost a comedy. I must hereby emphasize on it isn’t a comedy!
It is about this dude counting cards though, and he’s really good at it. I don’t know why he’s in the business really but we get clues to his background although the movie. We know from the start that he has spent some time in prison and that it was there he learned the skill of counting the cards. I’m not sure if he’s using an established system or if he has invented something himself. It doesn’t really matter, he knows everything about the odds the house has against the house in various card games. He can instantly say what percentage a chance of getting a certain card in poker och blackjack and he’s smart enough to win a small amount of money so that he doesn’t draw too much attention to himself.
At least until he is approached by this kid that immediately recognizes him. This kid gives him his phone number and encourages him to give him a ring. There’s something like revenge on the agenda. I don’t think it’s a spoiler the say that he indeed gives this id a call and that he then takes him with him on the road. I think he sees himself in the kid for some reason and it’s soon revealed that he knew his father. In the meantime, a woman willing to fund him in a tournament of poker approaches him with an offer he can’t refuse in the long run.
All of the above is important for the movie’s plot and where the story takes us but it has very little to do with the themes and what makes it so dark. And, t be completely truthful, I don’t think it really matters what the story is really about on the surface. The acting, especially from the main character – The card counter (Oscar Isaac) is absolutely suburb. I like the fact that there are very few scenes where he has anything but a neutral facial expression. If we take this into the land of allegories, he has the best poker face ever. No emotion whatsoever. That means that we never really know what he’s up to. He’s just a person who plays cards and has lots of dark secrets. He stays in his motel rooms and stays away from the casino flair hotels. He even covers his entire room with sheets. All the furniture, including the desk lamp, the entire chair, the legs of the bed, and everything else. This adds to the mystery of course. I like the way the film can take any turn, any time and it would fit the storyline.
But why did I mention torture in the title of this post? Was it just clickbait? Well… no! I’m not very good at clickbait anyway. There are parts of the story that might be a reference to Guantánomo Bay or an equal kind of place. There are some really dark and vicious connections that connect the kid or really the kid’s father and the card counter with a common enemy. So on the bottom line, the Card Counter is more about revenge than any card game. I don’t want to go into specifics here but I was totally stunned by the movie up until its very end. Then, as so many other horrific stories go, just on the finish line there is a not hard enough punch in the stomach. The solution, the ending is a little bit too easy. But boy, is the way there ever worth the effort!