The Card Player – 5

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Director – Dario Argento

Cast – Stefania Rocca, Liam Cunningham, Silvio Muccino, Adalberto Maria Merli, Claudio Santamaria, Fiore Argento, Cosimo Fusco, Mia Benedetta, Giovanni Visentin

Release Year – 2004

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Italian maestro writer/director Dario Argento(Deep Red, Suspiria, Tenebre) really surprised me with this one.  Why?  Well, simply put…despite this flick’s interesting plot and the fact it had one of horror‘s greatest directors at the helm, it sucked!  We’ve all heard it before; “Dario Argento has lost it.”, “He isn’t what he used to be.”, and sadly to say…this film is a testament to those opinions.  I still love the guy, but damn this was disappointing.

The Card Player stars Stefania Rocca as Anna, a Rome policewoman who is targeted by a deranged killer.  The killer has been playing a deadly game with the local police force, one that has left the force in emotional shambles.  He challenges the officers to beat him at a game of online poker; if they win then the kidnapped victim he has will survive, if they lose then the kidnap victim is killed before the officer’s eyes via webcam.  As the body count rises, so does Anna’s frustration.  She soon joins forces with a hard-nosed British detective named John(Liam Cunningham) and they follow a bloody path to tracking down this smart and tech savvy killer.

For what it is worth, I did like this film’s storyline.  While I definitely prefer the old-school type killers who refer to trickery in toying with the police I am a big fan of anything technological, so I found some joy in seeing it used by a killer for once in these type of Italian giallo-esque films.  Everything else about the plot and storyline was mediocre and in some cases even quite sub-par, especially for Argento.  The use of the poker game was a bit silly to begin with, and was at its utmost silliness during the ending sequence of the film, which I must say is one of the most ridiculously written and executed climaxes I’ve seen in this genre.  The character play was pretty disappointing as well, although that has always been one of Argento’s lesser traits.  Our lead, Anna, is completely unlikeable from beginning to end thanks to her horrendous dialogue and equally horrendous acting performance.  Judging from some of her dialogue, I thought at times that maybe Argento wanted her to be hated by the audience, and then as she develops she becomes likable and works the audience to her favor.  Well, that never happened in this film, so I really do not know why she was made so darn unlikeable unless it is just more supporting evidence showing that Argento maybe really has lost “it”.

Argento’s direction was positive at times, but in the end I would have to say that even his directing job needed a lot of work.  We get no gory kills, hardly any gory death scenes(there is a difference, yes), and no strong tension where tension was required.  Aside from the opening sequence he did not give us any of his awesome camerawork that he used so well back in the 70s and 80s, and his sorry excuse for a musical score did not help.  In all honesty, I would have to say the musical score is the worst attribute to this film, which in a way really is as bad as it “sounds”.

Overall, this is the very first un-recommended review from me for a Dario Argento film and I really hope that he can get back on track and give us the films we grew to love him for.  With no exciting kills, no great camera use, and poorly written characters, I say skip this one.

Rating: 5/10

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