THE CARD COUNTER is a very dark movie about a former military prison camp interrogator, played by Oscar Isacc, who is haunted by all the things he’s done in his past. His depression leads him to the point of being suicidal. He’s also obsessed with getting revenge on all of the cruel behavior that people have inflicted on him in his past.
While serving a prison sentence he spends hundreds of hours teaching himself how to count cards, a skill that gives the gambler a distinct advantage over the casino. However, his true skill is playing poker. With his card counting skill and his ability to read the other players at the table he’s one of the best poker players in the world, but winning huge pots is not his motivation. He’s obsessed with reading his opponents and sending them from the table humiliated.
Tiffany Haddish, in her first dramatic role, is La Linda who runs a poker stable of skilled players. She matches up her stable with sponsors who have money to invest. In return she receives half of the player’s winnings.
Issac, who goes by the name William Tell, hooks up with a young gambler named Cirk (Tye Sheridan) who is down on his luck and in debt. William takes a liking to the young man and de- cides to use his poker winnings to get Cirk back on his feet.
Haddish is the third member of the team and William spends most of the movie fighting his affection for La Linda but in the end (spoiler alert) the two are involved in a sexy love scene.
The climax of the movie has William playing in The World Series of Poker, and while doing well, his obsession with revenge makes him walk out of the tournament. He’s obsessed with a Major (William Dafoe), who he served with at a military camp, and decides to get his revenge.
THE CARD COUNTER has so much going on in the plot that it’s a bit difficult to follow. There are three plots going on at one time. His dark past at a military prison and his battle with PTSD, his poker playing skills and his love affair with Haddish. Just one plot line would have made it more cohesive and entertaining.
Still, it’s a good movie, even with an unstructured plot with too much included in it. I liked the chemistry between Major and La Linda the most.
On my “Hollywood Popcorn Scale” I rate THE CARD COUNTER a JUMBO Popcorn.