Everyone needs to hit the reset button every now and then, don’t they? Although his off-set behavior might be a different story altogether, Paul Schrader has had a direct hand in multiple indisputable classics and much-discussed films, from “Taxi Driver” to “The Last Temptation of Christ” to his most recent film, “First Reformed.” According to Deadline, that latter climate change parable caught Oscar Isaac’s eye and led to him sending an email to Schrader to tell him as much. By the next year, Schrader had gotten in touch with Isaac again and asked him to star in “The Card Counter.” Obviously the actor said yes, but his decision had as much to do with his previous roles as it did with his interest level in Schrader’s actual script. As Isaac tells it:
“I’ve been in green screen space land for quite a few years and I was desperate to do a character study.”
Blunt and to the point, I like it. Isaac has certainly earned a respite from those other types of performances, which typically have demanded little more than his natural charisma and charm as opposed to any real intensive acting. In fact, it was his obvious chemistry with John Boyega that helped convince J.J. Abrams to reverse course and save Isaac’s Poe from certain death in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” It’s debatable whether the rest of the Sequel Trilogy did much to justify his continued presence in the movies (I would say that “The Last Jedi” is the only film to actually treat him as a character who undergoes an actual arc), but who can begrudge him those paychecks? That doesn’t seem to have been the case with “The Card Counter,” which brought Isaac back to his classically-trained roots by presenting him with the challenge of how to portray his character’s nebulous past in the film. The solution: masks.
“In prep I wore a mask. I went back to my theatre school at Juilliard and worked with one of my favourite teachers there who does a lot of body work. We did three days in a studio where I put on a neutral mask.”
We’re going to hazard a guess that “Dark Phoenix,” “The Rise of Skywalker,” nor his upcoming performance in “Moon Knight” required that he go to similar lengths to prepare for those roles. In any case, this all makes his presence in “The Card Counter” even more intriguing. The revenge-thriller arrives in theaters on September 10, 2021. Check out the synopsis below:
Redemption is the long game in Paul Schrader’s THE CARD COUNTER. Told with Schrader’s trademark cinematic intensity, the revenge thriller tells the story of an ex-military interrogator turned gambler haunted by the ghosts of his past decisions, and features riveting performances from stars Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan and Willem Dafoe.