‘The Card Counter' Goes All In on Regret, Guilt and Pain

Paul Schrader’s latest film explores the aftermath of the torture that took place in Abu Ghraib.

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In “The Card Counter”, Oscar Isaac (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) plays William Tell, an ex-military interrogator turned gambler haunted by the ghosts of his past decisions. Tell was one of the men involved in torturing prisoners in Abu Ghraib which we see in vivid flashbacks throughout the film.

After serving time for his involvement, he spends his days in the purgatory that is the low level pro-gambling circuit. Tell seems happy to just disappear, counting cards and collecting his winnings, until two people cross his path.

Focus Features
Oscar Isaac stars in "The Card Counter", in theaters Sept. 10.

One of those people is La Linda (Tiffany Haddish) , a woman who finds financial backers for players on the pro gambling circuit. And although Haddish is taking a serious turn in this film, she is definitely a bright spot in an otherwise very heavy story. 

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Oscar Isaac stars as William Tell and Tiffany Haddish stars La Linda in "The Card Counter."

Haddish says she took on the role because wanted to work with writer/director Paul Schrader (“Taxi Driver”). And she felt a unique connection to the material.

“I feel like I know a lot of comics where they try to get lost in this thing, or lost in that thing. But they’re dealing with a lot of conflict inside,” Haddish said.

Tye Sheridan (“Ready Player One”) enters Tell’s life as Cirk, a college dropout hellbent on revenge. Cirk wants Tell to help him kill John Gordo (Willem Dafoe), the major who trained his father, and who trained William, at Abu Ghraib. 

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Oscar Isaac and Tye Sheridan in "The Card Counter"

“The Card Counter” is intense, and isn’t as much about counting cards as the name would suggest. But Sheridan sums it up perfectly when he said this film explores what happens in the aftermath of tragedy.

“I think sometimes it becomes hard to overcome the trauma of our past,” Sheridan said. “And I think most people can relate to that. We all live our independent lives and we have events that happen and sometimes trying to overcome those events is really challenging. How you move forward from there is really important.”

Focus Features' “The Card Counter” opens in theaters Sept. 10. It stars Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan and Willem Dafoe and was written/directed by Paul Schrader.

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