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    ‘The Card Counter’ is a strange yet satisfying journey


    Paul Schrader is on a late-career roll.

    Writing the scripts for “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” gets you a free pass for life. As a director, though, Schrader has been more hit and miss. But with 2017’s brilliant “First Reformed” and now “The Card Counter,” he has tapped into something deep and dark – the soul of the nation, maybe, as cliched as that sounds.

    But it’s true.

    Where “First Reformed,” fueled by Ethan Hawke’s performance, took a roundabout-but-effective route to deal with environmental issues, “The Card Counter” (in theaters Friday) rides Oscar Isaac’s more controlled portrayal of the title character, a gambler who finds not only a measure of control at the tables but also a possible path to redemption, in taking on the American government’s sanctioning of torture.

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