Cast: Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan, Willem Dafoe
At one point in Paul Schrader’s latest severe character study, the camera reveals a tattoo on the back of Oscar Isaac’s character’s back that reads, “I trust my life to providence, I trust my soul to grace.” In the shot, William Tell, Isaac’s troubled gambling protagonist, is sipping whiskey and writing at a desk, a pose familiar to fans of Schrader’s work, and the words come from a song written for Light Sleeper, Schrader’s mist-soaked 1992 drama about insomnia and addiction. These self-referential touches are hardly essential to enjoying the film, which tracks Tell as he plays in gambling tournaments for a kind-hearted manager (Tiffany Haddish) and considers a revenge plot against a private security contractor (Willem Dafoe) pitched to him by a disturbed young man (Tye Sheridan). The movie works as a shrewd thriller, a smoldering romance, and an often angry meditation on guilt. But it works best as yet another example of Schrader’s unwavering faith in his own divine gifts as a filmmaker.
It had its world premiere at the 78th Venice International Film Festival on September 2, 2021. It was released on September 10, 2021, by Focus Features.