Writer-director Paul Schrader continues his late-career resurgence with this taut drama featuring noir-ish thriller overtones and an unforgettable performance from Oscar Isaac—a ‘seductive force field’ in the words of one critic—as an Abu Ghraib army vet and ex-con turned gambler. Going by the pseudonym of William Tell, Isaac’s character is a deeply conflicted poker player living a tortured, lonely existence by travelling to no-name casinos, counting cards, and winning just enough to keep going. A possibility for redemption presents itself when he encounters La Linda (Tiffany Haddish) and a possible protégé in young Cirk (Tye Sheridan). Will he take it?
‘Schrader has created another drama about obsessive masculinity, fragile hope and potent despair competing for dominance in the heart of a man roaming a nocturnal world of sin—naturally it’s impossible not to see the echo of Schrader’s screenplay for the 1976 classic “Taxi Driver”… Schrader has carpentered a strong and vehement film, hypnotically watchable… There’s a horrible, queasy urgency to this high-stakes game.’—Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian