Director: Simon West
Starring: Jason Statham, Michael Angarano, Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Hope Davis, Stanley Tucci, Jason Alexander
Written by: (basd on the book “Heat”) William Goldman
Running Time: 92 mins
Release date: 20th March 2015
When it comes to modern-day action stars, Jason Statham must be the leader of pack. Unlike others in his field (a certain tall Irish man we could name) The Stath at least tries to inject different angle to his films. They may not be that successful in their execution but you have to give him credit for trying. He could just run around punching people in the face but his film are more than that. This latest venture, Wild Card, tries that very same path. A very different action thriller that, for all its faults, isn’t as painful as, say, Taken 2 & 3 put together.
Nick Wild is a Las Vegas bodyguard and chaperon. He is a man for hire. He dreams of leaving the town behind him and to go sailing in the Mediterranean, except he has a bad habit for gambling and drink. A close friend is found beating up outside a hospital. She asks for Nick’s help to get revenge. What Nick doesn’t know is that the man responsible is a heavy hitter for the mob and is willing to do anything to set Nick up.
Based on a novel, Heat, by Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman, this is the second outing for this source material. The first time was back in 1986 with Burt Reynolds and while Goldman’s script was as sharp as his previous work, the film was a muddled mess thanks to some pretty lacklustre direction. This time round, the film, helmed by Con Air director Simon West, allows the script to do its work without interfering too much. Although the complexities of Goldman’s original book still struggles to work on-screen.
The problem is far too many characters. Each one has some kind of link or connection to Nick that makes him seem like the most popular man in Las Vegas and yet he comes across as the loneliest man in town. Waitresses, dealers, even casino bosses know Nick and what he is capable of, yet they allow him to go about his merry way, none of them saying enough is enough. I guess if they were to interfere, they’d be messing up the story line. The story also rambles along, not exactly knowing where it wants to go.
So Nick, who is willing to help a friend in need, wanders around town, showing strangers the ropes while allowing hooker friends to use shears on the body part of the man who beat her up, without once stepping in to say “bad idea!”
Yet while all these contrivances are happening, you listen to the script and find yourself taken in by Goldman’s wonderful dialogue, which is mostly smart and sassy. So with the dialogue taken care of, it’s up to Statham to proved the action. With only three set pieces, each one played out like some violent ballet, The Stath uses any object, apart from a gun, to cripple, maim or bloody his victims. Even the old fashion spoon can come in handy when the Stath is around.
The acting side is taken care of courtesy of a fine supporting cast including the always wonderful Stanley Tucci, Hope Davis and Anne Heche. They pop in and out to cover Statham’s back, allowing him to be, well, the Stath. Even though Nick Wild is a complex character, trapped in a town that he doesn’t want to stay in, yet the smell of the vodka and the excitement of the blackjack table keeps him there, Statham plays him just as if he was The Stath.
Wild Card isn’t perfect by a long shot but it’s interesting. Much more interesting than just running, jumping, chasing and being chased. The violence is brutal, which fans of the genre will like and the script is good enough not to offend the ears of those use to one-dimensional clichés. As for Statham, may be continue to push the boundaries of being more than just another generic action film. One day, he will get it right.