original title: Il Cartaio
Director: Dario Argento
Starring: Stefania Rocca, Liam Cunningham, Silvio Muccino, Adalberto Maria Merli, Claudio Santamaria
A serial killer with a vice for Video Poker.
A British tourist has been kidnapped in Rome and the entire police department are working to find her. One of them is a young woman named Anna, who gets contacted by the killer who invites Anna to a game of online video poker, with the bet being the life of the kidnapped tourist.
The Chief Police orders Anna not to play and the young tourist is murdered in front of them on the webcam feed. This tragic event makes the British detective John Brennan to arrive in Rome to help them out and when the killer kidnaps even more women to bet their lives in poker games, Anna will need all the help she can get.
Being a movie directed by a legendary filmmaker like Dario Argento can be both good and bad. On the good side, the movie gets more exposure and I’m sure that if this was created by a no-name director, then no one would have heard or seen it. On the other hand, having the name Dario Argento on a movie also makes the audience expect something special. After all, this was the same guy who delivered Suspiria, Tenebrae and Opera.
The Card Player is a whole other breed though. This isn’t an attempt to push any boundaries or create anything extraordinary. This is a very straight forward thriller with a few twists added to it. It feels like a fancier version of a TV show and I have seen it being nicknamed CSI: Rome before, but for me that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
If you judge The Card Player on its own and don’t hold it up against the other Argento films, then you will find a well paced and interesting little mystery thriller here. It might not have the greatest plot in the world and the video poker scenes are a bit crappy, but it does also have some wonderful shots, especially the one where Anna is in danger in her own home and another with Remo running after a beautiful girl in the streets.
The leading character Anna was written for Asia Argento, but when she pulled out Stefania Rocca stepped in instead. I think that might just be for the best. Asia has been in so many other films made by her father that it becomes a little refreshing to see a film (especially a newer one) without her. I also liked Rocca in this part, she comes by as a hard-working female cop who plays down her own gender to fit in with the boys even though she is a very caring and passionate woman at heart. The rest of the cast is very generic, including Liam Cunningham as a typical drunken British police detective.
The Card Player will never be remembered as a great Dario Argento film. It doesn’t hold a candle to Deep Red or Suspiria, but it is also not a movie that is trying to be anything more than what it is. It is simply a generic thriller, just done solid. It has plenty of flaws that can distract you, but if you go in not expecting much then I believe you will have good entertainment for 100 minutes.