The Card Player – Italy, 2004

The Card Player – original title: Il Cartaio – is a 2004 Italian giallo thriller film directed by Dario Argento. It stars Stefania Rocca and Liam Cunningham and marks Argento’s second giallo feature of the decade (following Sleepless).

A serial killer known as “The Card Player” is kidnapping young women in Rome. Using a webcam set-up, the killer challenges the police by forcing them to play hands of Internet poker. If the police lose, the kidnapped victim is tortured and murdered on-screen.

When a British tourist is among the women murdered, policeman John Brennan (Liam Cunningham) is assigned the case and quickly teams up with Italian detective Anna Mari (Stefania Rocca). The duo have their work cut out for them when the Police Chief’s daughter (Fiore Argento) becomes the killer’s latest kidnapping victim…

Reviews:

The Card Player comes off as neutered, made-for-television Argento with flat visuals and all-too-familiar set pieces. Taken on its own, The Card Player offers a fair amount of suspense and at least one memorable set piece, but for those even remotely familiar with Argento’s canon, there’s the feeling that it’s all been done before — and handled with much more style and confidence.” Jason Buchanan, AllMovie

“There is very little gore and nudity in the film, and the plot resolution is predictable. Disappointment at the end has more to do with the poor choice of accompanying music than poor choice of script, though. The online poker games, which are supposed to be the high point of the film, are directed in a manner suggesting that Argento can’t adapt thrills of digital entertainment to the thrills of cinema.” Dragan Antulov, Draxblog

The Card Player […] doesn’t break the unhappy streak of his [Argento’s] later films. Though it’s based on a promisingly outrageous premise […] the film unfolds as a tired, thoroughly conventional police procedural that might as well be titled CSI: Roma.” Dave Kehr, The New York Times

“Asia Argento withdrew from The Card Player before the start of production, and while her intense presence might have made it more lively, it couldn’t have redeemed the perfunctory screenplay by Argento and longtime collaborator Franco Ferrini, which goes to so little trouble to hide the killer’s identity that even inattentive viewers will know who’s to blame long before the police figure it out.” Maitland McDonagh, TV Guide

Cast and characters:

  • Stefania Rocca as Anna Mari
  • Liam Cunningham as John Brennan
  • Silvio Muccino as Remo
  • Adalberto Maria Merli as the Police Commissioner
  • Fiore Argento as Lucia Marini
  • Cosimo Fusco as Berardelli
  • Mia Benedetta as Francesca
  • Giovanni Visentin as C.I.D. Chief
  • Verra Gemma as Third Victim

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