A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Clear theme of going above and beyond to help others, but in the end movie is mainly about revenge, mistakes made, and lives gone too far off track.
Positive Role Models
Will Tell is a fascinating character, and some of his lessons about gambling could apply to real life. He decides to use his skills to help another person, to raise money to pay off debts and get him into college, turning him away from a path that would lead to revenge and violence. Unfortunately, Will's good intentions don't pay off; he winds up on a road to violence and revenge himself.
One of the three main characters is a Black woman with agency and her own story. She has made a success of herself in her field, which involves gambling. She is part of a tender, loving interracial romance.
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Violence & Scariness
Fairly brief but unrelentingly intense images of torture involving naked men, beating/kicking, attack dogs, people being tied up and/or forced to stay in uncomfortable positions, loud/violent music, humiliation, etc. A character is beaten and bloodied, with fingers broken, etc. A character kills another in the name of revenge. During a fight in a prison, one man punches another in the face several times; bloody teeth, injured eye. Guns shown. News report of character shot and killed. House on fire. Sounds of torture, beating, screaming. Threats. Verbal descriptions of horrors witnessed. Disturbing newsreel footage.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Two characters have sex; kissing shown, but no explicit nudity. Sex-related dialogue. Brief, full-frontal nonsexual male nudity during torture sequences.
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Strong language includes uses of "f--k," "s--t," "motherf----r," "a--hole," "p---y," "bitch," "d--k," "pr--k," "piss," "balls," "farts."
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Products & Purchases
Alcoholic drinks are ordered by brand name: Tanqueray, Johnnie Walker, etc.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Many scenes of drinking (hard liquor), mostly at hotel bars and in social settings. Main character drinks a glass of whiskey alone in a hotel room, never appears drunk. Cigarette smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Card Counter is an intense, rigid, fiercely personal drama about revenge by filmmaker Paul Schrader (First Reformed). It includes nightmarish images/memories of torture in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, with injuries, humiliation, full-frontal male nudity (not in any way sexualized), loud and violent music, etc. Characters are killed, beaten, and bloodied, with broken fingers, etc. Guns are shown, and characters are killed. There are also violent sounds and upsetting verbal descriptions of violence. Language includes many uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and more. Two characters kiss and have sex, but nothing explicit is shown; there's also some sex-related dialogue. Characters drink frequently and casually at hotel bars and alone; some also smoke cigarettes. The movie certainly won't be for everyone, but its artistry and depth make it highly recommended for mature viewers. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Writer-director Paul Schrader has made an intense, rigid, fiercely personal drama that may seem out of place to some modern moviegoers but reaffirms the artistry of cinema. Certainly, The Card Counter (like Schrader's previous First Reformed) will be a hard sell, especially to viewers who aren't familiar with the director's hero, French filmmaker Robert Bresson (1901–1999), whom he's emulating here. In films like A Man Escaped and Pickpocket, Bresson used an austere style with very little animation in his cast's performances (he referred to actors as "models") as a way to uncover deeper meanings in his images. Schrader succeeds beautifully in ahdering to this method, even if, for some, his work will be hard to decipher. It may not always make emotional sense for the characters to do what they're doing, for example, but it works symbolically.
In addition to The Card Counter's many strikingly considered and composed shots of hotels and gambling rooms, Schrader creates other haunting images that are carefully layered in. There's the hotel room eerily covered in white sheets, the garden of lights that Will and La Linda wander through one night, the red-white-and-blue-clad gambler who chants "U.S.A.!" every time he wins, and especially the horrific, deliberately nightmarish scenes of Abu Ghraib, shot with a special lens that makes everything feel rolling and off-kilter. The final image in The Card Counter, both uncomfortable and beautiful, will send viewers out into the world knowing that they've really seen something.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.