Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Playing video poker with highest stakes(and holding a losing hand)

The Card Player (2004)
Starring: Stefania Rocca and Liam Cunningham
Director: Dario Argento
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

Police detective Anna Mari (Rocca) becomes the point of contact for a serial killer who kidnaps young women and forces Rome's homicide detective squad to play online video poker for their lives.

"The Card Player" has enough plot- and logic-holes large enough to drive the train featured in its intense climactic moments through, not to mention an unfortunate tendency on the part of the characters to do stupid things just because if they didn't, the already feeble and shaky plot would fall apart completely. There is, however, enough tension and mystery here to keep viewers engaged.

Regular viewers of Argento's movies are used to characters having extreme moments of idiocy because the plot needs them to... his films have depended on this since "Deep Red" (review here). Here, though, the affliction strikes multiple characters far more than is acceptable even by Argento standards.

There is the further strike against the film that its characters, both minor and major, are a collection of tired cliches with not even quirks about them to make them different from the characters you've seen in other mysteries and thrillers--the cranky police chief, the jaded coroner, the disgraced renegade cop, the computer hacker who now works with the police, the killer with the "mysterious inside knowledge of the police department" are all here, and they play exactly the sorts of roles you expect them to, in exactly the way you expect them to. This collection of cliches, coupled with the fact they all suffer from plot-dictated stupidity, further damages the film and at times even ruins some of the mounting suspense.

Despite a nice idea at its core and a tense final confrontation between cop and killer, "The Card Player" is a fairly weak effort. Save it for the day when there's nothing else you're interested in watching.