The Card Player
the card player | dario argento | franco ferrini | stefania rocca | liam cunningham | silvio muccino | mystery | thriller | italy | claudio santamaria | fiore argento | il cartaio | cosimo fusco | mia benedetta
Film: The Card Player (Il cartaio)
Director: Dario Argento
Writer: Dario Argento and Franco Ferrini
Starring: Stefania Rocca, Liam Cunnigham and Silvio Muccino
This is a returning of sorts for writer/director Dario Argento. This is a modern giallo that that came out in the earlier 2000s. This is also one of his lesser known films as well. The synopsis for this film is a Rome policewoman teams up with a British Interpol agent to find a crafty serial killer whom plays a taunting game of cat-and-mouse with the police by abducting and killing young women and showing it over an Internet web cam.
One thing I will say about Argento films, especially his giallo ones, is that he will come up with a solid concept. I liked the idea behind this one. Poker was really starting to get popular again around the time this film was made. I did find it interesting that according to the film it was illegal though to play it for money in Rome where the film takes place. I like the idea that the killer is making the police play a best out of 5 for his victim to survive. It is a solid idea.
The problem here though is the execution is lacking a bit. The film doesn’t do as well as some of his previous films in the genre. I had trouble guessing who the killer was, which I normally like, but then at about the midway point I noticed something that I felt was a dead giveaway. I wasn’t bothered by the typical giallo concept of the police involving someone who is not on the force to help them, which this film does in the form of Remo (Silvio Muccino). He is a college student who knows how to play poker.
The film does focus much more on the female police officer, Anna Mari (Stefania Rocca), and the British Interpol agent John Brennan (Liam Cunnigham). I thought both were solid in their performances. I do feel that they were pushed together a little bit too much to spark the romance element of the film. That didn’t really bother me too much though. I didn’t mind the back-story for Anna where she is not a fan of playing cards due to her father having a gambling problem. It does set up something at the climax of the film that helps to make sense. Muccino as Remo did a solid job as well in his performance.
Something I will give this film is that the effects were good. The blood and gore are not the highest from an Argento film, but it definitely looked real. There is also a corpse of a victim in the film that most definitely looked exactly like a real body. I will give the film credit there. The realism of the effects for the film were on point. I would say that they are practical which as you know I’m a big fan of. The only thing that seemed to be CGI was the card game which was done on a computer. I had no issues with that.
Another strong part of the film was the score. It was done by Claudio Simonetti who I am a big fan of. I know him for his work with the group Goblin who has done a lot of work with Argento in the past. I am a huge fan of his work as he has done a lot of my favorite soundtracks to films. This one isn’t his best, but it definitely gives an eerie vibe to scenes that help to set the tone. I especially like when he incorporates human breathing or sounds into the song which makes it even tenser for me. The only thing that didn’t fit was a scene with Cunningham driving that threw me off. Not enough to ruin the film in my opinion though.
I didn’t see any issues with the editing of the film. I thought they built the necessary tension and the pacing was good. I think the issues actually for this film was more of the writing. Not all giallo films have the best writing, but this one definitely had some moments that I felt were absurd. It took me out so I can’t blame the editing for that at all.
Now with that said, I would recommend this film. I thought the concept of the film was interesting. Argento did a good job at making a giallo that fit the time and the technology. It also capitalized on poker getting more popular. The film did have some issues with the writing though that took me out. The acting was good in the film for the post part, especially from the three stars. The score was solid aside from one scene. I also thought the editing was pretty well done. This film though is slightly above average to me. This is one of Argento’s lesser films, but if you like a decent murder mystery or are a fan of this master of horror I’d recommend a viewing. If not, he has much better giallos out there to see for sure.
My Rating: 6 out of 10