A Rome policewoman teams up with a British Interpool 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.
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Sure, it's not Dario Argento's best film. But like many other works this is a film about watching and perception … and it's still fascinating how Argento directs our views with an excellent camera work. E.g. the whole beginning is a game with changing angles and perspectives.
Liam Cunningham's charismatic presence is much needed, and a male presence like this has been much missed in many Argento films over the years. Having said that, he doesn't save this boring, gimmicky and implausible film, which has an easily identifiable killer; looking for excitment here is like using this movie to learn the rules of poker.
From The Bird with the Crystal Plumage to Opera, Argento has long been fascinated by the power of the image and the passivity of film viewing. The Card Player is a continuation of this theme; a film about looking and seeing, not as procedural, but as commentary. The characters - gathered around a screen, forced to watch the scenes of depravity unfold (but unable to assist) - become a stand-in for the audience...
Average, average, average. Almost a TV movie. In fact, below average. A disappointment. Big. It's the kind of film that makes you wonder how its director could direct two or three great movies 20 years before. Already forgotten.
The Card Player works as an extended CSI. It isn't as profound as Argento's Terror at the Opera or Suspiria but it's a typically suspenseful and unique giallo nevertheless. The video poker theme is a welcome change, appearing all the more vicious especially in an age where online gambling is the norm. If you dug Sleepless, you should watch The Card Player - if only due to it's contrasting tone to the other movie.
Let's face it: there's not a lot to see in Argento's oeuvre's latter half. The idea that someone might introduce themselves to him for the first time through one of these is chill-inducing. The positive thing about The Card Player is that it's nowhere near the horror of Dracula 3D, for example, and for that it deserves an extra star. It's like a long CSI episode. Harmless, but boring as fuck. Also, points for Liam!