If guilt could be considered a prison of the mind, then it’s no wonder that the strangely penitential William Tell (Oscar Isaac) acclimated nicely to prison. Having served time for his role in torturing inmates at Abu Ghraib, he reenters society as a nomadic gambler, traveling from city to city and casino to casino, pursuing low-stakes wins by utilizing the card-counting skills he taught himself while incarcerated. In the confines of his spartan hotel rooms, made to resemble monochromatic prison cells by means of sheets wrapped around the furniture, he writes in a makeshift diary, the narration of which propels this morose redemption chronicle from the potentate of such toils, writer-director Paul Schrader. Wiliam meets a young man, Cirk (Tye Sheridan), whose father died by suicide after his own participation in the torture at Abu Ghraib. Hoping to avenge his family, Cirk plans to himself torture and murder the barbarous contractor (Willem Dafoe, woefully underused) who oversaw the malfeasance and later disappeared, leaving soldiers like William to take the fall. William takes a liking to Cirk and joins the celebrity poker circuit in order to win big and help free the young man from his obsessive quest for vengeance. He’s aided in his gambling endeavors by La Linda (Tiffany Haddish), a snazzy financier who emerges as a love interest for the guilt-ridden ascetic. All told, this is a variation on a theme for Schrader (albeit a satisfactory one, unlike some of the others) and a fitting follow-up to his 2017 standout First Reformed. Often prone to wearing thin his compulsions, Schrader’s fealty to the work of Robert Bresson and his penchant for desultory narrative and aesthetic caprices are here tempered by exceptional performances from Isaac and Haddish; they retain their individual faculties even under the thumb of a dogmatic auteur. R, 112 min.

AMC Theatres, Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema, ShowPlace Icon Theatre