Joe Stapleton announces his poker movie is showing at Venice Film Festival

Jon Pill
Published by:
Posted on 07/27/2021

The film, The Card Counter will be premiering at the Venice Film Festival according to Joe Stapleton who consulted on the film’s poker scenes.

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t the movie I poker consulted (is that a verb?) on last year premiering at THE VENICE FILM FESTIVAL,” Stapes tweeted.

Despite the blackjack-related title, it looks like the movie will focus on poker, with the main characters drawn towards the World Series of Poker.

According to IMDb, the movie will star Oscar Isaac as William Tell, a professional gambler “spartan existence on the casino trail is shattered when he is approached by Cirk, a vulnerable and angry young man seeking help to execute his plan for revenge on a military colonel. Tell sees a chance at redemption through his relationship with Cirk. […] the unlikely trio set their sights on winning the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. But keeping Cirk on the straight-and-narrow proves impossible, dragging Tell back into the darkness of his past.”

The movie is written and directed by Paul Schrader. Isaac will be co-starring, along with Tye Sheridan as Cirk, Tiffany Haddish as La Linda, and Willem Dafoe as the main villain: Major John Gordo. Dafoe appears in most of Schrader’s directorial output.

2021 could be a big year for poker movies.

As well as The Card Counter, cinemas will also get the Russell Crowe thriller, Poker Face this year. The movie will be about a wealthy man whose poker night with a dark twist is derailed by a violent home invasion.

High hopes for The Card Counter

It’s been a while since a decent poker movie made it into the cinema. The heady days of Casino Royale and The Grand are over a decade past now. Molly’s Game was a good film, but barely touched on the actual game at its heart. Instead, that movie focused on the personalities that surrounded the titular illegal poker room.

The reference to the WSOP is a little concerning. Shades of Lucky You haunt me whenever I think of the WSOP in film. Tournament poker is attractive to filmmakers. The clean-cut way in which winners and losers are picked out feels more cinematic. But most of the best poker films, like Rounders and The Cincinnati Kid, focus on cash game players.

In the end, what will really matter is not the type of poker, but the script. This is where The Card Counter is on its most solid ground. The writer-director is Paul Schrader. His typewriter was behind Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, and The Last Temptation of Christ.

As a result, some people are already hugely anticipating the movie.

“I can’t wait for Schrader’s THE CARD COUNTER, but I am somewhat put off by the fact that Oscar Isaac’s character is named William Tell,” Bill Ryan wrote on Twitter. “That’s almost as bad as calling him Steve Cardcounter.”

Schrader’s directing record is a little more spotty than his screenwriting history.

The Canyons and American Gigalo are well-known, but not for their high quality. And Schrader’s version of The Exorcist prequel was so badly derailed he was taken off the project. The film was eventually released as Exorcist: The Beginning, with Renny Harlin taking the directorial credit.

Schrader did get to release his cut of the movie as Dominion: The Prequel to the Exorcist, but neither version impressed the critics.

With Stapleton on set, one hopes that the poker scenes won’t be too wonky. Stapes will even appear on-screen briefly, though according to him, he has no lines.

“I am quite visible in the film,” he wrote. “But no speaking, sadly.”

I look forward to everyone in the film talking about “hold cards.”

Featured image source: Twitter