For any fans of legendary director Martin Scorsese, the name Travis Bickle will immediately bring to mind the classic 1976 movie Taxi Driver. This was the film that put not just Scorsese on the map as one of the most exciting film-makers to emerge in the 70s, it also was the first big success for screenwriter Paul Schrader.
Undoubtedly, the latter has enjoyed a more low-key Hollywood profile since but has also continued to make some important movies over the last few decades, both as a writer and director.
For example, alongside Scorsese he worked on one of the best boxing movies of all time, Raging Bull as well as Bringing Out The Dead, the 1999 thriller about two New York paramedics on the trail of a killer. Solo hits have included Light Sleeper, Mosquito Coast and Dominion, the prequel to The Exorcist released in 2005.
This year sees the release of the latest of the films that Schrader has both written and directed, The Card Counter which premiered at this year’s Venice Film Festival.
To date, the reviews have been great, earning it a solid 88% score on Rotten Tomatoes. But it seems like audiences are a little less enthusiastic in their appreciation, scoring it at just 42% so far.
Without giving away any spoilers, it tells the story of a mysterious veteran of the Iraq War who goes by the (possibly assumed) name of William Tell. However this one hasn’t made his name by shooting apples off people’s heads with arrows, nor does he have an overture named after him.
Instead, he makes a living by travelling from casino to casino and using a frowned-upon technique called card counting to win money playing poker.
Card counting is something that has featured in many movies before, but is generally more associated with blackjack, one of the most popular games in online casinos today. This is thanks to how easy it is to play as well as the interaction that’s possible with actual dealers in the “live” version of the online game.
Among the movies in which blackjack has featured in the past, is Rain Man in which Dustin Hoffman produced a virtuoso performance as Raymond Babbitt, a man on the autistic spectrum who is exceptionally good at the game. And William Tell also shows that he is also a very skilled cards player.
But it’s not his ability at the table that has started to see parallels drawn between him and the taxi-driving Travis Bickle.
Both are US army veterans – in Bickle’s case of the Vietnam War – and both feel that there are certain moral scores to be settled in society at the time. In Taxi Driver, it was the central character’s disgust at the degenerate society he saw all around him. In William Tell’s, it’s a far more personal wrong that needs to be put right.
We’ve promised no spoilers. So, to discover just what it is that needs to be avenged and how Tell intends to make things right, you’ll just have to see the movie.