The Card Player Review

Before we start, perhaps you'd best read Michael Mackenzies excellent review of the Czech region 2 version, which you will find here. This review can't really improve upon it, so go and read that, if you haven't already (why on earth not?) and then come back and read this, slightly harsher one.

You've probably gathered by now that The Card Player is something of a disappointment. Every time a new Argento film is announced, there is a small stirring of the soul as you ask yourself -'could this be the one? Could this really be the one that re-establishes Argento as a major force to be reckoned with after the, frankly, rather awful tripe he's produced of late?' That's harsh, but think back the the hayclon days of Deep Red, Suspiria and the like and you'll realise that even his better work of the last few years is a mere rehash of what's gone before. Once, he pushed the envelope. Now, that envelope has slipped from his fingers altogether, slid under the door and blown away leaving Argento clutching at air.

For a start, The Card Player looks and feels like a made-for-television pilot for some awful cops 'n' robbers show. Well, it would if the characters were a little more interesting. The set-pieces, when they arrive, are fairly solid but it all feels like a re-tread of what's gone before. There's nothing that makes you gasp out loud and even Sleepless provided a moment or two of real excitement. On the whole, The Card Player is a masive let down. Even the soundtrack is pretty awful euro pop; the end of the film, which could so easily have been a tense 'noisy/quiet' bit is let down by the inclusion of it to the extent that it becomes a massive distraction.

The real pity of this film is that, underneath the surface, there's a great film trying to escape. The central theme is one of dislocation. Every major character is, in some way, cut off from some solid base in their life. Anna still suffers from her father's suicide; John Brennan is a cop in exile and so on. The central device, the internet, is, you could argue, a superimposed electronic reality and thus a dislocated reality. Even time itself, at one point, becomes broken. Against this broken reality, Argento uses the device of a card game to provide a structural meeting point for the protagonists. However, having set up a rather complex structure to the film, Argento merely lets it all go to waste. Of course, this is only a subjective reading of the film and might all be, to put it bluntly, bollocks in the mind of the reviewer.

Another thing that could quite easily be bollocks in the mind of the reviewer is the nagging feeling that, along certain points in the film, there are some quite subtle reference points to Argento's earlier work. Look closely and you will see the gushing water from the opening of 'Suspiria', a shot of the police station from the outside that looks cribbed from 'Inferno' and so on. This could be read as a hidden message to Argento's faithful fans just to let them know he hasn't lost his touch and will be with them again shortly for the last of the Mother's trilogy. Here's one fan who hopes this never happens - A third film, nearly three decades after Suspiria will only be a let down of Phantom Menace proportions.

As Michael Mackenzie's infinitely superior review points out, there are some good times to be had with The Card Player. Just don't go expecting a classic and this probably ranks as one of the worst things he's ever produced. We've come along way since Argento produced his best work. Other, more able, directors have taken the gauntlet he dropped way back in the good old days and vanished over the horizon with it, leaving Argento merely retreading the same old ground. Put simply, having stolen so much from Argento over the last few years, Hollywood can now do this sort of thing much better.

Picture

An adequate picture, and no more. Looking at the review of the Czech version, it seems that this would be considered the weaker transfer. There are some nasty compression issues at times and the transfer doesn't handle detail at all well. It's slightly grainy at times and the whites are dull and listless, but the dark scenes are handled quite well and there's no loss of detail in those shadows.

Sound

No problems with the soundtrack. Booming, clear bass and clear dialogue. Rears are used to good effect, and provides some wonderful tense moments. Only English language as an option and there is no DTS if this is an issue for you.

Extras

Trailer
A short, but not unexciting, trailer that manages to spoil at least two of the movies small 'surprises' so its best avoided until you’ve seen the main feature.

Making of The Card Player
Five minute featurette which features much input from Mr Argento himself so will be of interest to fans but there's not much depth here. In Italian with english subtitles and with quite awful picture quality. It looks as though it was transferred from VHS or something.

The Card Player Promo
The best thing about this 10 minute featurette is the inclusion of the Suspiria theme music. Trouble is, it makes you want to go and watch that instead. With english subtitles, its a full Medusa promotional reel for the film, a sort of extended trailer and contains much b-roll footage, interviews and, it almost goes without saying, many spoilers. Entertaining enough, but ultimately rather pointless. Still, it’s better than nothing.

Film
6 out of 10
Video
7 out of 10
Audio
8 out of 10
Extras
5 out of 10
Overall

6

out of 10

Last updated: 19/04/2018 10:51:02

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