The Card Counter REVIEW: Oscar Issac leads haunting drama as gambling loner

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Like his memorable 2017 religious thriller First Reformed, this is another slow-burner about a loner grappling with big questions. In an opening voiceover, William Tell (an excellent Oscar Isaac) relates how he found peace in prison after discovering philosophy and the art of counting cards to win at blackjack. Now he’s taking both new loves on the road.

Around scribbling thoughtful prose in his diary, William ekes out a low-stakes living on the card table.

But when he runs into Cirk (Tye Sheridan) ‑ a college drop-out connected to his dark past ‑ he senses a shot at redemption. 

William will clear the kid’s debts by entering high-stakes poker tournaments.

It’s a move that attracts unwanted attention but also brings him close to Tiffany Haddish’s poker agent.

Just when we’re sensing romance, Schrader shuffles his decks with striking flashbacks to an infamous prison and a ruthless army major played by Willem Dafoe. 

If you saw First Reformed, you should be ready for a killer final twist.

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