UK Release Date: 20th March 2015
Runtime: 92 minutes
Director: Simon West
Writer: William Goldman
Starring: Jason Statham, Michael Angarano, Milo Ventimiglia, Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Stanley Tucci, Hope Davis
Synopsis: A hard-nosed gambling addict takes a series of odd jobs around Las Vegas, being drawn deep into the city’s seedy, criminal underbelly.
There’s a certain welcoming feeling to the release of a new Jason Statham film into multiplexes. The Brit action man’s output is like a macho comfort blanket; you know exactly what you’re getting from his rock hard anti-heroes. With that in mind, it’s a little bizarre when something different comes along, like his newest film Wild Card, which has a real lack of identity.
Nick (Statham) is an ex-Marine and a recovering gambling addict, who does odd jobs for people in Vegas in order to fund his blackjack habit. His clients include millionaire pipsqueak Cyrus (Michael Angarano), who wants to be guided around Vegas, and rape victim Holly (Dominik Garcia-Lorido), who seeks revenge against her assailant DeMarco (Milo Ventimiglia).
From the very beginning, Wild Card plays as a distinctly different beast to the usual Jason Statham running, jumping and punching people in the face. Teeth do rattle and Statham does deliver his trademark growling dialogue, but there’s a sense that this was conceived by scriptwriter William Goldman – oddly remaking his own 1986 adaptation of his own novel – as more of a dramatic, character-driven piece.
| "I like blackjack… perhaps more than I should."
As much as Statham exudes screen charisma, dialogue-heavy character work is not really in his wheelhouse. He seems unnatural and uncomfortable in scenes when he is forced to shoulder narrative weight. However, the scenes in which he is able to relax into traditional ‘Stath’ mode are some of his best ever, with the climactic fight scene an absolutely masterful display of how to use cutlery in a manner very different to what the manufacturer intended.
It is the fight sequences that give Wild Card its most impressive moments, under the stewardship of action movie veteran Simon West. Statham’s balletic brutality is beautifully utilised to make genuinely bruising action that really hits the mark.
Unfortunately, Goldman’s misguidedly cerebral script seems uninterested in this aspect of the story and repeatedly attempts to cast Statham as a brooding, troubled character pregnant with nuance. It’s a role that doesn’t fit the star, particularly given the film’s desire to surround him with incidental supporting characters. All I wanted to see was him punch a henchman in the face.
Goldman’s structure has little in the way of narrative focus. It’s almost an anthology piece, but often feels inert as it ambles between set pieces and interactions with characters who are not given enough time to make a notable impact. At only 90 minutes long, Wild Card should feel lean, but it instead packs the kind of flab that Statham usually shrugs off.
| "I know now what I really need."
Whilst it’s nice to see Jason Statham willing to subvert his usual screen persona in Wild Card, the film feels lost and unsure of itself. It completely fell on its face at the US box office and hasn’t done particularly great business everywhere else.
If anything, this should show Statham that he’s better off when he’s a roll-with-the-punches action hero. It’s time for him to grab a new magazine and reload.
Pop or Poop?
In a misguided attempt to turn Jason Statham into a complex, brooding protagonist, Wild Card completely misses out on its star’s effortlessly charismatic B-movie appeal.
Director Simon West packs in enough action to avoid total failure, but there’s too much verbosity amidst the violence.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.