Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Card Player (2004)

(IL CARTAIO) (2004)

A Film Review

Copyright Dragan Antulov 2005

Any ground-breaking filmmaker who remains in business long enough risks seeing his work becoming mainstream. Same principle could be applied to Dario Argento, Italian film director famous for his legendary 1970s "giallo" films. His latest works, despite Argento's best efforts, look not that different from the genre films coming from today's mainstream Hollywood. One such example is Argento's 2004 thriller THE CARD PLAYER.

The protagonist of the film is Anna Mari (played by Stefania Rocca), female police detective from Rome whose latest case involves one particularly nasty serial killer. Unknown psychopath kidnaps women, puts them in front of webcam and dares policemen to a play a game of online poker for their lives. First such challenge is ignored in police and results in a young woman being killed. Since she happened to be British citizen, British embassy sends its resident police official John Brennan (played by Liam Cunningham) to assist the investigation. After another murder, this time caused by police personnel's ineptness in poker games, Anna decides to hire Remo (played by Silvio Muccino), teenager with incredible poker talent. He manages to save Lucia (played by Fiora Argento), police chief's daughter, from the maniac but Anna nevertheless continues investigation and discovers that the killer seems to know too much about her.

If not for Rome locations and absence of Hollywood actors - closest thing to that is Irish actor Liam Cunnigham, probably introduced in order to make this film more accessible to English-speaking markets - THE CARD PLAYER looks very much like so many "high concept" Hollywood thrillers about psychopathic killers with too much imagination and too much resources at their hands. There is very little gore and nudity in the film, and the plot resolution is predictable. Disappointment at the end has more to do with the poor choice of accompanying music than poor choice of script, though. The online poker games, which are supposed to be the high point of the film, are directed in a manner suggesting that Argento can't adapt thrills of digital entertainment to the thrills of cinema. However, the acting in the film is very good, Rome locations are put to good use and there are couple of interesting scenes. THE CARD PLAYER could be recommended as more than passable entertainment, although Argento fans would most likely prefer his earlier work.

RATING: 5/10 (++)


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