Paul Schrader is angry.
OK, yeah, it’s kind of like saying ‘the water is wet’ when you talk about the guy who started in the 1970s as a screenwriter for Taxi driver and made his directorial debut with the Detroit assembly line drama Blue collar. But no matter how true or not that may have been in the past, recently Schrader’s anger is very personal. His 2017 film First reformed was full of incendiary fury with a priest facing his internal struggles while awakening to the devastation of our rapidly changing climate. What if his new movie, The card counter, is aiming for something a little less apocalyptic, his rage is just as palpable.
Oscar Isaac is our card counter, a man with a hazy past and obsessive control of his present, who goes from casino to casino playing blackjack and poker, and who knows exactly how far to push the rules without causing problems – casinos don’t. be careful if you count the cards, he said, as long as you don’t win too much a lot.
This hazy past is revealed, however, in a nightmarish footage that shows Isaac was an American soldier in Abu Ghraib, as Schrader uses what may be the most extreme lens you’ve ever seen to travel through the prison and its horribly familiar images. , a kind of dynamic Boschian version of this shameful place. And we soon see that while Isaac was not sinless, he also paid the price for the people above him who laid the groundwork for this torture – and that at least one of those people may soon have its own performance, a potential that shakes. The hyper-controlled character of Isaac.
As happens with Schrader, it forces Isaac to confront his guilt, the sickness of our society, and the prospect of forgiveness, and it opens the story to huge philosophical questions. It’s captivating, but it’s wrapped up in an expertly crafted thriller that maintains a slow, sizzling buzz. Schrader is a director who will always genuinely use a photo of his character driving down a highway at night, with his thoughtful face superimposed on the moving car, and while this sort of thing might look outdated in lesser hands, Schrader knows what to do with it. point this can create a mood and keep a quiet crackle.
But as muffled as the film’s tone is, there’s no doubt about Schrader’s hot anger. He’s absolutely not afraid to talk about things other people seem to avoid – why aren’t we all outraged? How is it possible? Escape is good, but it’s no secret that there is something to be angry about these days, and our art needs to reflect that. Otherwise, we put our heads in the sand. The card counter proves: we need more anger from our films.
The card counter is at the movies.