Directed by Luke Korem
Sixty-two year old Richard Turner is renowned as one of the world’s greatest card magicians, yet he is completely blind. This is an in-depth look at a complex character who is one of magic’s greatest hidden treasures.
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★★★½ review by Michael Sicinski on Letterboxd
There is nothing particularly notable about Dealt as a documentary. In fact it is a standard-issue character study, and its arc is relatively predictable. We learn about Richard Turner, the "card mechanic" who has been obsessively mastering the art of playing-card manipulation from a very early age. We see him perform unimaginably difficult maneuvers with the 52. And then we learn that he went blind as a child and has been rebelling against society's expectations of the "disabled" ever since.
I just happen to find Dealt entertaining, despite its slavish adherence to convention. Turner is a compelling figure, partly because he represents an ideal of masculinity that is tied to a particular moment in history, something unique to my father's generation. He modelled his identity on cowboy movies and the TV show "Maverick," and so his style of being became that of the "honest cheat," the guy who baffles you but never really takes advantage of his superior skills.
It's a notion of honor and nobility that is so time-bound that it practically belongs in a museum. But what makes Turner so fascinating is the degree to which his blindness, for him, represented a disruption of that manly narrative. He was forced to overcompensate, even though no one ever expected him to. As a result, be created himself as an outsized figure of ruggedness and daring, tempered by a genuine warmth and humility that might not have been there otherwise.
And the cards are always in his hand. It's as if they provide a sort of surrogate sight, the flipping sound of the shuffle serving as an echo-location whereby Turner can bring interesting, respectful people into his orbit. He always speaks about wanting his skills to be recognized on their own merits, and he is a brilliant cardsman by any measure. But the fact that he has made a life's work out of tracking and manipulating 52 objects that all feel exactly the same is not something so easily dismissed. If he can "fix" that sameness, see through it and feel the absolute distinctions, than he can smooth out the unexpected challenges of each new day.
★★★½ review by SnowboardJunkie on Letterboxd
Inspiring story of a man who didn’t want to be seen as blind or disabled. Just the accomplishment of his hard work and persistence. He’s a card mechanic. Someone who can cheat at cards. Most see him as a card magician. Which is probably what I see for lack of a better understanding. If for nothing else than the fact his heart would never cheat himself or you. It’s a warming story of determination matched by hard work and passion. Some might even say he’s obsessed.
★★★½ review by Jason Bailey on Letterboxd
Richard Turner is one of the great card mechanics of all time – a 40-years-in performer whose performances are like magic shows, except he’s not just showing tricks, but the moves cheaters use to win at casinos and the card table. He’s spectacularly talented, a funny, gregarious dude who’s always got a deck of cards in his hands (“I have a two to three pack a day habit,” he jokes) and whose sleight of hand is astonishing even *before* you discover he’s completely blind. Director Luke Korem traces his loss of sight, which began at age nine (using effective camera tricks to visually represent his deteriorating state of vision), and his consequent resistance to labels and limits. In some ways, his refusal to be defined by his blindness is admirable, but the filmmaker savvily navigates the tricky question of whether he just doesn’t want to admit to, and come to terms with, his condition. Korem works a little too hard at the end to assure us how inspirational Turner (and by extension, the film) is, but that complaint aside, this is a compelling and frequently dazzling portrait.
★★★★ review by Alex on Letterboxd
Dealt manages to be one the best documentary films that I have seen in quite some time. If you break it down, it is about a man who triumphed over his disability to do something quite remarkable. The film follows illusionist Richard Turner, a blind so called Card Mechanic, a man who is skilled at manipulating a deck of cards. This is a terrific film that features interviews with Turner, his family and those who know him. Very well done, insightful and uplifting, this is a well crafted documentary that is very entertaining and quite uplifting to see a man overcome his disability and accomplish so much. Richard Turner is such an impressive person and this is a film that goes in depth about who he is. An engaging film from the start, Richard Turner shows how he was determined to not let his limitations get the best of him, and we see him accomplish something quite incredible. His tricks are terrific and what he has accomplished in his personal life is quite incredible as well. He doesn’t let his blindness affect his way of life, and in the end that’s really the theme of the documentary, or the message so to speak. Not letting your limitations get the best of you.
★★★★ review by Nick H. on Letterboxd
"The only thing is, they used the word 'blind,' so I never showed anybody that article because they had to put the 'Blind Man Ears Black Belt' in there. I want my stuff to stand on its own."
I was introduced to Richard Turner on Penn & Teller: Fool Us. He blew me away with his card skills, fooling everybody in that room and on television as well. Once I saw he was the subject of a documentary, I was all in.
Dealt shows card tricks that stun crowds but it also shows a portrait of a man who feels belittled by his blindness in the eyes of others. His sister is also documented and she too had sight and lost it, and her journey into accepting her lot in life, and the service dogs and canes that can come with it, are also shown as a comparison of how we cope with what we get in life.
If you like magic, sleight of hand, or even general human interest stories, check out Dealt. It's an intimate, loving portrait of a magic man who is as vulnerable as he is talented.
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