Card Player, The / Il cartaio (2004)

3.0 out of 5

It's easy to get swept along by the brisk pace of this partial return to giallo form from Dario Argento, despite the fact that it comes off rather poorly when compared to something like the veteran director's own devastating Tenebre.

Originally intended as a sequel to The Stendhal Syndrome, it deals with a deranged killer who challenges Rome's homicide squad to games of online poker, with the lives of kidnapped women as the stakes.

Although occasionally unintelligible in the English language version, Stefania Rocca acquits herself well as the officer in charge of the case and Liam Cunningham is likeable as disgraced Interpol agent 'Brennan', despite being given a stereotypically Oirish role complete with hip-flask and drunken rendition of 'Danny Boy'. The film lacks the spectacular murder set pieces that the director is famed for, opting mostly for scenes of 'after the fact' grue, but is as slick as an oil spill in a varnish factory and makes great use of its Roman locations.

Not half as bad as people may try to claim it is, but nothing to write home to momma about either.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics