Dario Argento, the Visconti of violence, is back with an ingenious but relatively tame thriller. Irish cop John (Liam Cunningham) teams up with Italian inspector Anna (Stefania Rocca) to investigate the kidnapping of a British tourist. This poor lady is the first victim of a serial killer who forces the Roman police to play video poker for his captives’ lives—if the cops win, the women will be spared, but for each round they lose, a body part will be cut off. The clueless carabinieri can do little but watch until they enlist the services of a teenage video poker ace to play for them. Argento builds suspense nicely when Rocca is trapped with the killer inside her apartment. And—shades of silent-serial queen Pearl White!—she spends most of the final reel handcuffed to railroad tracks as an express bears down on her. Although less bloody than the director’s usual splatterfests, Card Player contains quite a few scenes of cops poking around inside rotting corpses. See it, but not after a full meal.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 28, 2004