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Il Cartaio (The Card Player) Reviews

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Super Reviewer

June 21, 2013
Dario Argento has crafted some of the most memorable horror films in the genres history. However he has lost his touch starting in the mid 90's. The Card Player may have been a great concept on paper, but on-screen it fails to deliver anything truly entertaining. This film fails to deliver what Argento's classic films did so well back in the day. This is a dull affair with poor acting, directing and storytelling. The film simply doesn't have that spark that made Argento's work memorable. This film is just bad and will disappoint the diehard Argento fan. I've been a fan of his for a while now, and I had heard mixed things about The Card Player. However this was a big letdown and it shows signs of a director that is quickly running out of ideas. I think it's a shame because Argento is one of the legends of horror, but this one just fails on every level. If the script would have been reworked and the cast better chosen, maybe this film would have had a chance, but as it stands, The Card Player is just another run of the mill Giallo with 21st Century elements to make it more interesting for today's audience, but in doing so has no substance to its concept. Well, it's bad, and if you love old school Argento movies, don't watch this one as all his trademark elements are nonexistent. I think it's a shame because this film could have been great, but this is just a boring movie with poor buildup, a bad cast and awful storyline that could have been reworked many times to make this a worthwhile Giallo that ranks up there with some of Argento's best. Unfortunately it's a forgettable film not worth your time.

Super Reviewer

January 12, 2011
Cyber-thriller about a thrill-seeking killer who kidnaps women and then lures the police into a game of online poker to play for the lives of the victims. This one misses the mark, which is a shame because the plot has pontential but it was nowhere near as suspenseful as it could have been. Acting all-round is quite poor except for Liam Cunningham who livens things up whenever he's on screen. Music was cheap techno-garbage which does nothing to add to the tension. Gone is the style and clever camera work that Argento employed in his 70s and 80s films. A real let-down... probably the directors worse film to date.
Lafe F

Super Reviewer

July 10, 2007
The trailer and DVD packaging makes it look like cheap Euro-porn, but it's actually a good Argento movie, comparable to his original animal trilogy of films, Tenebre, Opera, Trauma and the previous Sleepless. It has a compelling mystery, a list of suspects, beautiful ladies in peril, a black-gloved killer, colourful police detectives, interesting cinematography and cool musical score. The clues found to track down the killer's location reminded me of earlier Argento classics like Deep Red. There are memorable suspense sequences like the policewoman's home intruder, the pursuit of the mysterious woman with the death door gamble, the poker games of death, especially the finale on the train tracks. I liked the card-playing wiz-kid they found to outwit the killer. The killings had less blood-flow shown, which may disappoint some Argento gore-fans. The romantic chemistry was good between the leading investigators. I wasn't disappointed; this movie just needed better marketing. If you're looking for a poor Argento film, go watch the Stendhal Syndrome.
Matt P

Super Reviewer

July 27, 2011
The concept is very interesting with this one and the kills are good. The love story, however, dragged the film down and made it too conventional.
Marcus W

Super Reviewer

April 13, 2009
Here, the victims lives depend on a game of online poker. And that aspect of the film is great and works really well.
Sadly, Argento has given up on visual style, chucks in a needless love story - in fact, the Irish guy adds nothing to the film whatsoever. And the twist is straight out of Saw II, only it makes no sense.
Hard to believe this is from the director of Phenomena.
October 16, 2012
You know the creepiest thing I can imagine? Saw style traps mixed with video poker. Oh wait, that;s a sill fucking concept, can you believe that Dario Argento decided to run with such a ludicrous idea?

Such a boring film, has a few moments of visual flair here or there, but mostly it's just awful.

Pass, unless you're a completist.
August 7, 2011
In The Card Player, we see a mature Dario Argento who is well aware of his strengths as a filmmaker. This 2004 Giallo throwback is the story of a serial killer who kidnaps young women and plays internet poker with the police for the women's lives. The Card Player's screenplay is very much a retread of much of Argento's earlier Giallos in that there are no supernatural elements at play here - no witches, no knife-wielding monkeys, etc. This is a straight whodunit thriller with a few grisly moments to remind you it's Argento's work. Argento's style is what is truly different here - he is still very competent behind the camera, but you're less aware of his influence. This is not the grand baroque style of Opera or Tenebre, this is a modern film and very competent. The problem is, it never really rises beyond anything other than competent - the screenplay is tedious, the story predictable, and the concept, though modernized, is a rather tired one. Nods go to the electronic score and Silvio Muccino's performance as Remo, the cop's poker playing ringer. An average film with a master behind the camera is still an average film.
November 4, 2010
Dull, lifeless, uninspiring and frustrating. The whole film is painfully slow. There are so many pointless shots and dialogue.
March 29, 2009
Basically just a better-made rip-off of Feardotcom. But just when I thought the ending was kicking up a notch, it fell rapidly back down into mediocrity.
April 25, 2009
Amazing feature by Argento. It came out years after Susperia but kicked my senses thoroughly. A must see for Dario Argento fans, and any fans of an interesting movie. You may find it comparable to the new film "Untraceable". This is because the film untraceable is a rip off of this.

Super Reviewer

April 5, 2009
Michele Soavi is one of my favourite directors. Words cannot express how much I've enjoyed his work! Soavi cites Dario Argento as a major influence. Much to my dismay, I have not been all that impressed with the Argento pieces I've seen thus far. There were a few things I found to like about this movie; but, on the whole, it was a huge disappointment. With the exception of a couple of forensic scenes, there was absolutely no gore present in the movie. With that in mind, I considered that perhaps the film was structured to be more of a thriller. If so, it fell short in that department as well. I didn't find it the least bit suspenseful. Quite frankly, the end of the movie sickened me. "You're pregnant!" Come on! That was totally unnecessary. Though it was borderline cheesy, I must admit that I ate up the closing scene on the train tracks. I was fascinated by how far the serial killer took his quest for a "good high" - nicely done! Still, that was not nearly enough to save this one from a poor rating!
Ken D

Super Reviewer

March 26, 2009
A huge disappointment from Dario Argento. No suspense, hardly any gore. There was one cool scene at the end when you see someone get run over by a train and you see what happens to the body.
September 16, 2008
I must've reached the point where my expectations for Dario Argento's new(er) films are realistically low enough that I'm able to enjoy them. I can't explain why 'The Card Player,' a tense but conventional serial killer-thriller made for Italian TV, felt more satisfying than anything else the erstwhile master has done in a long while. The plot is nothing special, and the online poker hook already seems curiously quaint. Acting is passable but torpedoed by some awkward (bordering on awful) dialogue. Not much of a mystery here, either. I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but I identified the killer immediately. Intentionally or not, they couldn't have made it more obvious.

All the celebrated excesses that made 'Tenebre' and 'Deep Red' such superior gialli are absent. And, you know what? I think I'm finally okay with it. Nearly all of the violence in 'The Card Player' occurs offscreen. After the relentlessly misogynistic mayhem of 'Nonhosonno,' I must admit that the restraint Argento showed here was almost welcome. Oh, he can still ladle on the gore - see his Masters of Horror entries for proof! - but this movie didn't need it. Similarly, I'm starting to appreciate the more naturalistic, less extravagant filmmaking style that Argento has adopted. 'The Card Player' looks good. Really good. He may have reined in his roving cameras, colored gels and acrobatic crane shots, but Argento is finding new ways to present pretty and interesting shots without them. Compare 'The Card Player' with the much uglier 'Stendhal Syndrome' and 'Trauma.' Every frame here is striking, each setpiece expertly staged. Some of them may even rank among his best. The climactic scene, for instance, may be silly in the extreme, but there's also no denying its nerve-shredding effectiveness.

Even without his stylistic trademarks, there's an unmistakably "Argento-esque" feel to 'The Card Player,' achieved without stumbling into the sense of self-parody that has marred his other recent films. That may be why I'm feeling so benevolent. Were I in a less charitable mood, I'd have to dock the film a few points for the hysterically idiotic coda. WTF?!
August 21, 2008
Imagine a more macabre LAW AND ORDER episode, and you're about there. Better than I thought it'd be, but definitely Argento lite.
June 26, 2008
This movie is as memorable as The Bone Collector.

My thoughts on Dario Argento have drastically changed since I started watching the Anchor Bay Tin Box. While I have yet to see Suspiria, I have always thought of this director as the man who put drills through people's heads for funsies. At this point, I want the movei because the alternative to drill killer (which is terrible cinema in itself) is he's boring and people have been overhyping his films for years. Really, the worst thing a director like Argento can be is boring. When I compared it to The Bone Collector, that's actually a pretty reasonable comparison. Realy, the greatest serial killer movies have been made. Giving killers a new gimmick doesn't really improve the genre. There has to be something at its core that is different and exciting and this movie just doesn't pack that kind of punch.

The entire concept of video poker automatically dates this movie. What's even more bizarre is that there's nothing really scary about the enitre genre of video poker. There's this mentality in a lot of horror that if you take something that is normally considered evil and put a sinister twist on it, then it becomes something truly terrifying. Unfortunately, this doesn't work for video poker. Video poker, to begin with, is not that innocent. We're not exactly dealing with child's game here. Rather, it's just something neutral and that doesn't have the same effect as a killer Santa or something. I could see the converse of arguing that online gambling leads to one's downfall, similar to what Fatal Attraction did to adultery. But this movie doesn't really preach against video poker in itself, but just about how psychopaths exist on the internet. I will also have to stress how "killer video games" of any kind just aren't scary. They're silly. Now, I will say that this movie is more effective because it is grounded in reality, kind of. But it still isn't a good movie and that's a huge disappointment.

This movie isn't all bad. I did get through half a bag of gummy bears (my doctor loves me) watching this mone. Also, hearing a little Italian fat dude say, "I found theese in hehr vag-EYE-na" is a good time. Really, this is one of those off season movies that come out in the United States all the time. I just assumed that Argento would want to distance himself from what is being made time and time again and just shelved. But there is some tension. There are a few shocks. The ending is horribly predictable, but the shocks come in the form of how the character breaks the rules. (I disliked that because the movie set up this premise with how this thrill killer is obsessed with rules, but then ends up cheating anyway?) I really want to say more good things about this movie because it wasn't absolutely awful, but it is just riddled with problems and that can completely kill a movie for me.
March 4, 2008
I've heard nasty, awful, bad, terrible things about Dario Argento's work after the 80s, or at least from sometime in the 90s onward and generally avoided most (if not all) of it as a result. I jumped from classics like Suspiria and Profondo Rosso straight to his recent episodes of Masters of Horror, and could definitely tell something had changed, and something was very incongruous if one set those up next to his elderly works. They were, while entertaining enough, nothing that pushed me to change my stance on viewing Argento's other recent work. Considering opinions tended toward the negative pretty consistently, I stayed away. However, I stumbled across a copy of this film terribly cheap and figured--hey, what the heck, right? Four bucks? Why not?

As per usual, it should be noted in advance that, yes, this is an Italian film, and yes it's dubbed. Period. It does appear that almost everyone in the film is/was speaking English on set for once (instead of the maddening mishmash of 70s films, where everyone spoke their native tongue), but it's still clearly dubbed all around. This can be a little distracting, and will certainly induce laughs on the parts of audiences that cannot use cultural context to suspend disbelief, or experience Argento films more as a visual or atmospherically driven work than a standard plot-driven one. However, this time we are driven by plot. This is one of the many films referenced when people decry the complete lack of originality in a recent film titled Untraceable (which actually bears its strongest resemblance to the Mllennium episode entitled "The Mikado"). Anna Mari (Stefania Rocca) is an Italian policewoman (Dario likes his police and likes his heroines, so no big shock here) who is sent an unexpected e-mail asking her to join a mysterious stranger in a game of online poker, claiming he has a recently kidnapped British tourist tied up and that he will kill her. Her superior gets her into the poker chatroom but refuses to let her play, and they watch as the girl's throat is slit just offscreen through a webcam. Now, of course, we have a race against time to identify the killer as he takes on more victims, using (of course) an untraceable signal sent through routers, spoofed IPs and so on (thankfully decent as techspeak goes for this film, as it can be ruinous when they use all real terms to those of us who know things about computers and know that these terms are either irrelevant or easily defeated--though I admit I snuck in the spoofing bit myself...). A British (Irish, specifically, and yes, I'm pretty sure the British half of Ireland) detective named John (Liam Cunningham) who is disgusted by the death of the girl appears to try to bring more proactive action to the investigation--and of course to begin a romance with Anna.

The plot is nothing overly surprising--though, as I've noted before, Argento has never been about plot, but this time that approach doesn't work. What also doesn't work are attempts to draw us into the "drama" of these card scenes, which don't seem to have the drama or suspense that they should. There is some occasionally, and that's really the best phrase to apply to the film--"there's some occasionally." There are some rather cold, uncomfortable forensic investigations of the bloated, rotten corpses of the victims (yes, the image that gives you is about right) and a few quite suspenseful chase scenes, as well as a few shocking setpieces and deaths. When one of the victims manages to wrestle her way loose on camera, that was quite effective, too. But overall something is just not clicking--and I suspect this is mostly the result of Argento dabbling in an area that doesn't work with his approach to film.

Probably the most disappointing of all, though, was the score Claudio Simonetti (keyboardist for Goblin!) put together for the film. Apparently he had been hanging out at a bunch of raves around this time, with insistent "oomp oomp" beats and almost Squarepusher-like acid percussion (though not quite so intricate, and a little cheesier) driving the great majority, with only glimpses of his knack for ominous melody appearing every so often.

Overall, a disappointment, but one I was somewhat prepared for. Not total garbage, but pretty heavily flawed.
January 26, 2008
An incredibly unique story (but horrible script), some very great locations (but horrible lighting), some very Argentoy actors (but can't really speak English to save their lives), and some interesting uses of technology cannot save this film completely. I like it, I wouldn't mind watching parts of it again, but Dario seemed out of control when moving into an English script and trying to do more natural lighting. Oh well. :(
November 19, 2007
Recent Dario Argento movie! Involves the internet and poker with a murder mystery! Cool visual effects!
Matthew T.
January 25, 2014
Though it may not capture the beautiful tone, atmosphere and style of Argento's Giallo classics such as Bird with the Crystal Plumage and his cult horror hit Suspiria, I still had fun with The Card Player. Despite the below average acting (Except for Liam Cunningham), the film still displayed some genuine suspense, creative camera work and the occasional inventive set piece. While the film could never compare to Argento's films of the 70's and 80's, it still had some noticeable "Dario" moments and proves that there's still something special in Dario's directorial style.
January 16, 2013
One of the weaker recent movies by Argento who just doesn't seem to be able to shock anymore, as he is content with a few minor concepts for this less than average giallo. In this one, the serial killer gambles with the lives of his victims on an online poker game.
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