A Military Interrogator Confronts His Past in ‘The Card Counter’

Oscar Isaac The Card Counter
Oscar Isaac stars as William Tell in "The Card Counter." (Courtesy of Focus Features)

A veteran tries to forget his troubled past at the gambling tables in “The Card Counter,” written and directed by the legendary Paul Schrader (“Taxi Driver,” “Rolling Thunder”). The film will be released in theaters on Sept. 10, 2021.

Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron in the most recent “Star Wars” trilogy) stars as William Tell, a former military interrogator who taught himself to count cards during a 10-year prison sentence. Now he spends his days and nights putting those skills to use in casinos.

The mysterious La Linda (Tiffany Haddish, “Night School”) offers to stake him at the tables, and he’s working his game when he’s approached by Cirk (Tye Sheridan, “Ready Player One”), a young man with a plan. Cirk’s father and Tell served together, and the kid has a plan to exact revenge on their commanding officer, Maj. John Gordo (Willem Dafoe, “Clear and Present Danger”).

In this clip from the movie, Tell is racked with guilt over whatever he did during his service.


Of course, the best guess here is that Schrader’s characters are struggling because they participated in enhanced interrogation techniques, the ones that most people would identify as “torture.”

While the trailer doesn’t give away too many details, it suggests that Tell and Cirk are running a long game that will result in Gordo being held accountable for what they believe are the major’s crimes.


Is young Cirk also a veteran? Hard to say, but he’s sporting a Pew Pew Tactical T-shirt in the movie, so he’s down with the operator lifestyle. Is he the young hothead, with Tell as the experienced, levelheaded one? Hard to tell, since trailers sometimes make it their business to throw moviegoers off the trail before they get surprised in the theaters.

Schrader’s a writer who’s big on metaphors, so there’s sure to be a lot of stuff about how those interrogator skills connect to Tell’s gambling prowess. And there’s sure to be some kind of big mystery revealed since they’re hyping the “redemption is a long game” angle. All will be revealed in theaters next week.

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