Dario Argento started Horrorview.com. No, he didn't fund it, or come up with the name or do any of the coding, but his role in this site's creation was no less important.
You see, back in late 2002, I'd spend several hours a week corresponding with other Argento fans on the DarkDreams.org forums, dissecting the man's older films and anticipating the movies yet to come. Those conversations led to discussions about other films, with many of us even writing up our own brief reviews of movies other viewers on that site may not have seen. It was then that I decided that it would be a gas to start up a movie review site; one that focused on horror, but was also open to exposing readers to other films and genres they might have otherwise overlooked. And so, with the help of fellow Argentophiles Blackgloves, Billion$Baby, Suspiriorum, Monkeyman, and a few others who are no longer with us (Krug Stillo, where art thou?), Horrorview was born.
So, if it weren't for Dario Argento, Horrorview wouldn't exist.
And that is why it pains me to do what I'm about to do.
I am going to give you an honest review of The Card Player.
Forgive me, Dario.
A serial killer terrorizes Rome , kidnapping women and broadcasting their subsequent deaths over the internet. His modus operandi is to contact the police, and give them the opportunity to prevent the deaths of these women by beating him in a round of video poker. If they win, the women live, but, if they lose, well, the police get a front row seat for their execution. Detective Anna Mari (Rocca, in a part originally written for Asia Argento to reprise her role as Anna Manni from The Stendhal Syndrome) teams up John Brennan (Cunningham), an Irish detective who specializes in this sort of crime (because, as we all know, Ireland is the serial killer capitol of the world), and the pair troll the Rome underground for clues to the killer's whereabouts. They also bring in a secret weapon in the guise of a young video poker ‘expert' who buys them time while their crack team of computer geniuses try to trace the webcam broadcast to its source. We know these men are computer geniuses because they wear argyle sweaters, drink lots of coffee, and spout off outdated tech-speak as they pound at the keyboards of their laptops. In the English dub they are also given smarmy, high-pitched voices that would make Eddie Deezen cringe.
As you can see, stereotypes abound in The Card Player. Anna, for example, is your prototypical tough lady cop who is plagued not only by self-doubt, but by the lecherous advances of her coworkers. Cunnigham, meanwhile, has the obligatory “dark past”, and a drinking problem that leads to him singing “Oh Danny Boy” whilst stumbling about the Parthenon. Then we've got the all-business police chief (“I want this case solved! The commissioner is breathing down my neck!”), the eager-to-please sidekicks, and, of course, more red herrings than your average episode of Murder She Wrote. What we don't have, however, is a single shock, scare, or brutal murder scene. Instead, The Card Player is a remarkably flat looking film that lacks any of the visual flair Argento fans have come to expect, and is no more or less offensive (or innovative) than your average television movie-of-the-week. While Rocca and Cunningham make for an affable pairing, their chemistry is lost under pages of clichéd dialogue and the “hunt” for a killer whose identity is so obvious that he may as well be sporting a blood-soaked “I am the killer” t-shirt.
So, is The Card Player Argento's worst film? I thought so the first time I saw it a few months ago, but, upon second viewing, I softened up a bit. Sure it's hokey and simple, and virtually devoid of style, but it's still more fun than Inferno (which I detest, much to the chagrin of many) and much more accessible than The Stendhal Syndrome. The concept, while not unique, is intriguing, and, while the payoff isn't quite there in the end, I did find myself caring about the main characters.
Anchor Bay releases The Card Player with a commentary by Argento apologist, Alan Jones, two sets of interviews with Argento and composer Claudio Simonetti, behind-the-scenes footage, trailers, and more.
The Card Player is mildly entertaining crime drama, (some consider it a giallo, but I think it's far too conventional for that moniker) and, where this not an Argento film I'd probably give it a better review. However, this is an Argento film, and, damnit, I'm sorry, but I expected more from the man. Sadly, though, much like John Carpenter, it seems that Argento's best work is behind him.