The Card Player (2004) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The Card Player is a film which may leave you pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised. It depends on your expectations.

Let's start with a blank slate. Assume you don't know anything about the movie except that it went straight to video. You'll find yourself watching a fairly interesting police procedural with a few touches of mad imagination. It is the usual story of the mundane hard-working police engaged in a battle of wits with an insane super-criminal. In this case, Mr Insane kidnaps women, then contacts the police to play online draw poker, best of five hands. If the police win, the victim goes free. If Mr Insane wins, he slits the victim's throat. For a little extra spice, a sound webcam broadcasts the face of the bound victim to the police station in real time.

Given that assumption, you will find that is a serviceable film to pass the time when you're bored, much like a gazillion other films which you have seen and forgotten. It is similar, for example, to a 2001 film called Hangman, which featured Lou Diamond Phillips. The Card Player obviously seems like a foreign film, not just because it takes place in Italy, but because the minor roles are all dubbed very poorly. On the other hand, the two stars are competent actors who speak English, and they have most of the screen time, so the acting doesn't destroy the fourth wall that often.  Apart from the poor dubbing, the only really weak element of the film is that it spends altogether too much of its running time simply showing the full play of every hand, despite the fact that online poker is not much of a spectator sport. On balance, the story's premise is not very original, and The Card Player is not a good film, but neither it is a very bad one. It's probably better than you expected.

Now let's tinker with your expectations. This time you know in advance that it is a Dario Argento film. Given that you now anticipate certain lurid pleasures from the film, you will find yourself deeply disappointed.

  • First of all, it is quite mundane, about as routine as it could possibly be given that it is about an insane super-criminal. No baroque flourishes, no shots from the insane man's POV, no crazy lighting schemes, nothing very operatic.
  • Second, it is not very violent. Almost all of the slashing occurs off-camera. When the super-criminal wins the poker hands, he flashes a knife menacingly at the bound victim, whose face is seen in a tiny and blurry window on the computer screen. The victim then drops out of sight, the web cam window becomes blank, and the off-camera woman's screams intensify until they stop entirely.
  • Third, there is no significant nudity or gore. There are some naked mutilated corpses, but they are obviously either full-body dummies or women covered with extremely thick prosthetics. There is no time when the corpses seem to be actual human females.

There are a few good moments and interesting minor characters, but it's just not the kind of over-the-top fun that you expect from Argento. It's just a routine run-of-the-mill movie.



  • Widescreen, anamorphically enhanced (16x9)
  • Brand-New Interview with Director Dario Argento  
  • Audio Commentary with Profondo Argento author Alan Jones  
  • Behind-The-Scenes Featurette  


There are two nude corpses, including full frontal nudity. I just don't know how much of that shows real female flesh

Stefania Rocca does a nude love scene, but nothing can be seen.

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

  • No theatrical release in North America. It grossed about $3 million in Italy on about 215 screens.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a C-, a routine cop-vs-supercriminal genre flick. A routine straight-to-vid, which is therefore a disappointment from Argento.

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