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Il Cartaio

The Card Player

Italy 2004
produced by
Dario Argento, Claudio Argento (executive) for Medusa Produzione/Opera Film Produzione
directed by Dario Argento
starring Stefania Rocca, Liam Cunningham, Claudio Santamaria, Antonio Cantafora, Silvio Muccino, Fiore Argento, Pier Maria Cecchini, Ulisse Minervini, Cosimo Fusco, Adalberto Maria Merli, Luis Molteni, Jennifer Poli, Elisabetta Rocchetti, Vera Gemma
written by Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini, music by Claudio Simonetti

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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An English tourist (Jennifer Poli) is kidnapped, & a few days later, policewoman Anna (Stefania Rocca) receives a challenge to play a game of internet-poker for the girl's life (with the girl seen all tied up in a window right next to the actual on-screen poker game).

Chief of police Marini (Antonio Cantafora) though refuses outright to give in to a criminals blackmail, so the girl is killed, live on the internet.

Shocked that a British citizen was abandoned by the Italian police, the British embassy sends one of their topü investigators, John Brennan (Liam Cunningham)  to helpo witht he investigations, & he atfirst sight provesto be quite competent, but also a complete asshole with an alcohol problem. Only gradually, does friendship between him & Anna develop, & even love.

The killer - dubbed the Card Player - has in the meantime abducted another girl (Elisabetta Rocchetti), & this time Marini lets them play the poker game - with little success though, & again the police sees the girl killed, live on the internet.

A profiler examines the case & describes the Card Player as a risk taking hedonist, meaning someone who loves adrenaline pumping activities & possibly has a record for either illegal speed racing or Russian roulette. Furthermore he must be an expert video pokerplayer, possibly with what could be called the Midas touch.

Anna & John soon find a video poker player with the Midas touch, Remo (Silvio Muccino), but he is innocent 19 years of age & thus way too young to be the Card Player. But thea have the idea of employing him to play internet poker for thwe next victim's (Vera Gemma) life, so the police has at least a little chance ... & when Remo starts to play, the odds are looking promising ... until the girl manages to free herself, & the Card Player kiolles her for that, again life on the internet (although slightly off-screen).

& while Anna tries to get more & more into card playing herself, as her father was a passionate cardplayer himself, who in the end even threw himself in front of a train because of it, the killer has kidnapped another victim, Lucia (Fiore Argento), the daughter of chief Marini no less. Remo is called in again, & this time he wins ... & the Card Player keeps his promise & sets Lucia free ... with lethal consequences for Remo though, who is soon lured into a trap by a prostitute & killed by the Card Player when dragged behind a boat on his neck ...

Soon, John finds a definite clue, that does indeed lead him right to the home of the Card Player, he even finds the room where he held all his victims & played his pokergames ... & triggers a diabolical mechanism, which causes a spiked plank to spring right at his chest, thus killing him.

Desperately wanting to rush to the scene of the crime, Anna accepts a lift from one of her colleagues, Carlo (Claudio Santamaria) only to have to realize he is indeed the Card Player ... but much good does that realisation to her, as he pulls ut a syringe & sedates her.

When she wakes up, she is handcuffed to traintracks, & Carlo, indeed an adrenaline junkie, explains he did it all for her, whom he was secretly in love with, but when she spurned him, he decided to win her over by bringing her closer to her own father, as mentioned a passionate cardplayer who ended his life ... by being run over by a train.

However, Carlo, still living in his twisted world, handcuffs himself next to her, turns on his laptop & offers her to play a game of video-poker for the keys to the handcuffs ... which much to his dismay she wins, & she even manages to steal his keys, uncuff herself ... & watch him being run over ...

 

As a cop-vs-serial-killer movie, Card Player isn't too bad, it does contain a reasonable amount of tension & suspense, storytelling is tight & even the solution does seem reasonably logical (for this kind of film, anyways). At the same time however, the film seems to be one of director Dario Argento's most impersonal films, his naive fascination for the serial killer genre seems to be totally amiss here, as are his often highly stylized suspense-sequences or unique, almost experimental shots, giving way to a (disappointingly) realistic approach to the proceedings. This is not necessarily to say Card Player is a bad movie, it's just nothing to get excited about either.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
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... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
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out now on DVD