11th Mar2015

‘Wild Card’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jason Statham, Michael Angarano, Dominik García-Lorido, Milo Ventimiglia, Stanley Tucci, Max Casella, Jason Alexander, Sofía Vergara, Anne Heche, Matthew Willig | Written by William Goldman | Directed by Simon West

WILDCARD_1SHT

Nick Wild (Statham) is a Las Vegas bodyguard with lethal professional skills and a personal gambling problem. When a friend is beaten by a sadistic thug, Nick strikes back, only to find out the thug is the son of a powerful mob boss. Suddenly Nick is plunged into the criminal underworld, chased by enforcers and wanted by the mob. Having raised the stakes, Nick has one last play to change his fortunes…and this time, it’s all or nothing.

How the mighty have fallen… You’d never guess watching Wild Card that it came from the pen of Academy Award-winning writer William Goldman. Yes, the highly-regarded novelist-turned-screenwriter who was responsible for the screenplays for films such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Marathon Man and All the President’s Men; a man whose work I studied at university (his book Adventures in the Screen Trade is essential reading for film students), is the writer behind a Jason Statham movie. Let me say that again, a Jason Statham movie.

Admittedly this Stathe flick is less mono-syllabic hero and more Hummingbird-style introspective leading man – no doubt because of Goldman’s script. But for all intents and purposes this is still your typical Statham fare. To be fair it’s not all the actors fault.

Wild Card sees director Simon West, who actually helmed the better-than-average remake of The Mechanic – which also starred Jason Statham in the leading role – directing in lazy mode. There’s no visual flare, no directorial panache, no attempt at making this film look anything more than a flat, sub-HBO quality production. When cable TV shows like Breaking Bad et al. look better than a big-budget Hollywood movie, there’s obviously something wrong somewhere.

That’s not to say Wild Card isn’t an unwatchable mess. It’s actually a very passable, old-school quasi-thriller that allows Jason Statham to flex a few more acting muscles (rather than actual muscles). It’s no Hummingbird, but its OK. Maybe it’s because, even despite the story, there’s no real tension and no sense of danger beyond that in Nick’s head – his obsession with Vegas and his “future” is the one thing that hampers him, providing the real character arc and the forward momentum the film needs; and the actual story – Nick helping his friend following an assault and crossing paths with Vegas mobsters – becomes something of a filmic afterthought.

And that’s the one think I took away from Wild Card. Almost the entire film feels like an afterthought: the sub-plot involving Nick chaperoning Michael Angarano’s timid gambler Cyrus; Nick’s relationship with casino dealer Cassandra (Hope Davis); most of the cast – Anne Heche and especially Stanley Tucci are woefully underused; it’s all one big afterthought. I get that this is a vehicle for Jason Statham but when you have such as great cast as this it seems criminal to not make the most of them. Especially when there are plot threads written for their characters which are under-written or just simply fade out – much like the film when it ends.

Wild Card is released in the UK on March 20th.

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