The Card Player (2004)

Look, I’ll come clean. I’ve outright written off Argento’s post-Opera work without putting the work in, but that’s because the films I have seen have upset me so greatly — and in no way a good way — that it felt like putting in the work to watch another one after Sleepless felt like, well, work.

This was originally going to be a sequel to The Stendhal Syndrome and titled In the Dark, but everything changed when Asia Argento declined to be involved.

The biggest issue is that the story is intriguing but as you wait for the visuals, nothing much happens. If this were any other director, I’d be fine with this movie. But with Argento, perhaps unfairly, I want more. I want bullets tearing through keyholes and eyeballs, bodies crashing through windows, menacing forests and colors that burn their way into my ventral occipital lobe. Instead, this looks no better than a TV procedural.

The Card Player is a masked and black gloved killer who kidnaps women in Rome, then challenges the police to play internet poker with him for their lives. If the police lose, they get to watch someone get tortured and killed Red Room-style online.

There’s a great close with a train bearing down on the killer and a victim who play poker right up to the end. Sure, the effect that follows is poor, but getting there isn’t horrible.

What is bad is that this entire movie is based around watching people play video poker. While we can argue whether or not Argento was inventing Twitch, the fact is that 1972 Dario would shoot a poker game like cards were flying at us filled with mystery and menace. Instead, we simply watch cards slowly get dealt out.

Man, Dario. I really want to see you do something great. And I get it. You already did. Maybe I should take it easier on you. But we always want more from the ones we love.

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