By: Addison Wylie
As much as I love Wild Card’s straight-to-the-point capsule synopsis, it’s a little misleading. In the e-mail I received describing Jason Statham’s latest film, it read:
“A recovering gambling addict finds work providing protection to his friends. Statham-style action follows.”
Statham-style action does follow, and it’s a sock to the solar plexus. However, it’s not as frequent as you would imagine from the gruff action star who has kicked so much ass before. Actually, I can tell you exactly when he wipes the floor with bad guys. Forty minutes in, and an hour and five minutes in. And, during a final confrontation. But that climactic event isn’t as exciting as his casino brawl after the hour hump.
Too many people are fast to call out Jason Statham on his inability to grow as an actor. I’ve always found him to have an explosive presence when he’s directed by rightly chosen filmmakers. He’s dull in uninspired action flicks like War, Safe, and anything Luc Besson is attached to. However, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor can use him brilliantly in the Crank franchise.
Think of Wild Card as the anti-Statham movie you’ve been waiting for, and director Simon West uses his star nicely. We’ve seen the rugged leading man knock skulls together and roundhouse kick baddies across the room, but we haven’t seen him try and flex his acting chops in a drama since London. The change of pace is refreshing, and Statham makes a lasting impression as Las Vegas’ best buddy Nick Wild.
Everyone knows Nick, and everyone has a job for him. He reluctantly agrees to the tasks, even if the favour puts his own life in extreme danger. He agrees not because he has to keep a good reputation, but because he has nothing else to do in the glow of the Vegas strip.
Simon West’s Wild Card is a film that captures life in Vegas. While the film has seedy characters, they’re all part of a community that’s comfortable for them. It’s a way of life that’s only suited for a rare breed, and Nick is in a looping state of figuring out if he’s part of this clan. At least, that’s what I believe screenwriter William Goldman is representing in Wild Card, and maybe also in his original work – his novel Heat.
Characters come and go. Sometimes we want to see more of them. Sofia Vergara, Jason Alexander, and Stanley Tucci all show up for one-off parts that make us wonder if the roles really needed the star power. Vergara has been cast based on her looks, Alexander is momentarily smarmy, and Tucci was hired because….it’d be fun to see him pop up? I don’t know. It’s all very peculiar.
I’m not crazy for Wild Card. It’s confident with its crime laden atmosphere, but the vignetted story has the appeal of a precocious young pup trying to be intimidating. A lot of the dialogue twirls as if Goldman is trying too hard to be witty and cunning, and the acting gets more overacted with each punctuated return of recurring personalities.
However, I’m not ready to give up on Wild Card. It loses its lustre up until the bitter end, but West offers a commendable unprejudiced look at Vegas life, and the film gives enough fresh air for Statham to explore the world of dramatic acting with positive results. Wild Card is passable. Forgettable, but passable.