SXSW 2017: Dealt
Dealt opens with Richard Turner working out while shuffling cards at the same time. Sit-ups, push-ups, dumbbells, etc. Forever practicing his craft, 40 plus years in fact, he is almost never seen without a deck in his hand. Even when making love, apparently, the man never stops.
Richard Turner never could stay still throughout his entire life, kicking his problem square in the teeth with violent defiance. His problem you ask? His eyesight was taken from him in 1963 after contracting an eye disease. His sister, Lori Dragt, suffered the same fate as well, but more on that angel later.
Richard hated, and I mean detested being called handicapped. In his rebellion towards the darkness he found cards. In a simple deck cards he discovered, and more apt felt, his new love and passion. From age 9 he honed his skills relentlessly and did not stop there. Throughout the film we see him accomplish so damn much with his disability including earning a black belt in Karate (which is nuts and must be seen to be believed, the footage is insane), but the main love always remained in cards.
Dealing, shuffling and slight of hand, Richard is a monster. A talent that can pull off some of the most dazzling feats even when spectators are inches away or in our case a camera is locked on him clocking his every move. Master magicians revere him and his uncanny ability that found him success like most humans cursed with feelings it is never enough. Here is a man who is supremely talented and refused to accept the fact that he cannot see.
This rebellious attitude can only take him so far as he finally realizes that he needs help, the very help he constantly spat in the face in for decades. As a middle aged man this has to be a brutal realization as one can imagine. Director Luke Korem gives us a an incredible look at a man who faced his demons only to have a tiny one still remain on his shoulder all this time. Richard had help along the way thanks to his awesome wife and son, Kim and Asa Turner, but of course life moves on and that help fades or is not as potent as it was beforehand.
Enter his powerful sister who also took blindness head on, although a little later than he, but still with equal force and no humility about it. She aides him in CPU usage and for his first time ever getting around with a seeing eye dog. This becomes more a story about family that can pull you up when you hit a rough patch, but let’s not kid ourselves, when Dealt show Richard Turner at a card table prepare to be blown away. The man is a wizard, sorry, “Card Mechanic” that deserves a place in the history books for being ridiculously skilled eyesight or not.
My favorite moments are the ones where they cut to an audience being dazzled then they come to the realization he can’t see. The shock never gets old especially when you see hat he can achieve with his devil like hands. During a moment of fishing with friends and family, Richard Turner has an eye of a fish cut out for him and he savagely begins to chew it. Off camera the filmmakers are in shock and question why he would do such a thing? His retort: “Well? When have you ever chomped on an eyeball to see what it tastes like?” A perfectly captured example of this tough as nails spirit in a sea of wonder that is life.