Written by: Michael Den Boer on March 26th, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 2004
Director: Dario Argento
Writers: Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini, Jay Benedict, Phoebe Scholfield
Cast: Stefania Rocca, Liam Cunningham, Silvio Muccino, Adalberto Maria Merli, Claudio Santamaria, Fiore Argento, Elisabetta Rocchetti, Vera Gemma, Conchita Puglisi
DVD released: March 22nd, 2010
Approximate running time: 99 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital Stereo English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian
DVD Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £15.99
Synopsis: Detective Anna Mari is being targeted by a serial killer known as “The Card Player”, who kidnaps young woman and challenges the police to a game of cards. If the killer wins the girl dies if the police are able to beat the killer the girl will be set free. Anna Mari teams up with John Brennan a dishonored British cop who has been relocated to Rome. The police find themselves a young card shark named Remo to help them beat “The Card Player” and when the killer kills Remo the police’s ace card player. Anna Mari is forced to overcome her demons and face the killer head on.
After the success of Non ho sonno (Sleepless), a film in which Dario Argento would return to the more visceral visual style that his is most known and a the demise of a project titled Occhiali neri (Dark Glasses). He would shift direction once again with his next project The Card Player, a film that had originally been planned as a sequel for The Stendhal Syndrome. The story for The Card Player and its protagonist would be revised when Asia Argento who had starred in The Stendhal Syndrome was unavailable to star in a proposed sequel.
There are many elements in The Card Player which are in line with the type of killer present in the majority of Dario Argento’s thrillers. Like a killer who wears black gloves, disguises their voice and their identity and motivation are not revealed until the film’s finale. From a pacing stand point The Card Player moves along nicely with just the right amount of time spent in between each new twist. There are plenty of red herrings offered along the way, including what many viewers feel like an obvious nod to who the killers’ identity is.
The most fascinating aspects of The Card Player is how Dario Argento adapts his style of storytelling with modern technology like cell phones and the internet. This more modern visual style is greatly bolstered by Benoît Debie’s (Irreversible) naturalistic approach to the look of the film. Frequent Dario Argento collaborator composer Claudio Simonetti delivers an a score that compliments that story at hand. Even though the murders are mostly keep off screen and in not as gory as they have been in previous Dario Argento films. The mutilated corpses are sufficiently gory enough to covey the brutality of the killer.
The one area where this film excels the most is its superb cast with the stand out performance coming from Stefania Rocca in the role of this film’s protagonist Anna Mari (The Talented Mr. Ripley). Another performance of note is Liam Cunningham (Dog Soldiers) in the role of John Brennan an Irishman who works for his countries embassy in Rome. Ultimately The Card Player is a well made thriller that does a good job building tension and keeping things interesting throughout.
Arrow Video presents The Card Player in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. This is a clean looking transfer which boasts colors and flesh tones which are in line with the film’s intended look. Black levels fare well and details look crisp throughout. When compared with the two other releases of The Card Player which I have seen to date, the Anchor Bay DVD and the Hollywood Classic Entertainment DVD. The transfer for Arrow Video’s DVD is on par with the transfer for the Hollywood Classic Entertainment DVD.
This release comes with three audio options, Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital Stereo English and Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian and removable English subtitles have been provided. The Italian audio mix is the strongest of the three as it offers the most dynamic range of the three audio mixes. The weakest mix of the lot is the Dolby Digital 5.1 English which sounds to hallow when compared to the other two audio mixes included with this release.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (2 minutes 6 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), The Card Player Promo (9 minutes 13 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Italian with English subtitles) and brief behind the scenes segment titled “Making The Card Player” (5 minutes 20 seconds – letterboxed widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles). Other extras include “The Complete Dario Argento Trailer Reel” which includes the following trailers, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Cat O’ Nine Tails, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, The Five Days of Milan, Profondo Rosso, Suspiria, Inferno, Tenebre, Phenomena, Opera, Two Evil Eyes, Trauma, The Stendhal Syndrome, The Phantom of the Opera, Non Ho Sonno (Sleepless), The Card Player, Mother of Tears: The Third Mother and Dawn of the Dead. While most of his film’s are represented there are a few omissions Giallo and Do You Like Hitchcock?
Also included with this release is an eight page booklet with liner notes about the film that were written by Alan Jones, reversible cover art and a replica poster. Overall Arrow Video gives The Card Player a strong audio / video presentation.