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).
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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, &
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
& 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.