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Should I Watch..? Wild Card
What's the big deal?
Wild Card is a crime thriller released in 2015 and is based on the 1985 novel Heat by William Goldman. The first adaptation, also called Heat (1), starred Burt Reynolds and was released in 1986 although it was something of a disaster and largely forgotten. This second attempt, written by Goldman himself, saw action star Jason Statham reunite with the director Simon West who worked with Statham on The Mechanic (2) and The Expendables 2 (3). For action fans, this is an enticing combination but alas, the film is much more dramatic than energetic. As a result, the film bombed at the box office as adrenaline junkies used to Statham's blistering stunt work left feeling disappointed. However, I think that this might not reflect the whole story. Yes, the film's not that memorable but it's far from a complete disaster.
What's it about?
Nick Wild is a struggling 'security consultant' working in Las Vegas and gambling in-between odd jobs. He shares a small, dingy office with Pinky and things aren't going well. Not least when young Internet millionaire Cyrus Kinnick hires him to be a chaperone during his time in Vegas, a job that Nick is less than pleased to be reduced to.
Nick's life gets more complicated, however, after he is called by his friend Holly who was raped and beaten in a hotel room at The Golden Nugget before being dumped outside a hospital. Holly wants Nick to find out who was responsible and sure enough, Nick discovers it was small-time hoodlum Danny DeMarco and after a brief confrontation, Nick allows Holly some small measure of revenge. But Nick only really has one thing on his mind - securing enough funds to leave Vegas for good - and you can be sure that DeMarco and his men will attempt to stop him.
Cassandra, Nick's favourite croupier
William Goldman *
Release Date (UK)
20th March, 2015
Action, Crime, Drama
What's to like?
Statham seems to be quietly branching out from his traditional action-man roles - together with the recent release Hummingbird (4), it's as though he's trying to give this acting lark a go. Credit to him for that as he is the centre of the movie and whilst his Cockney accent might jar with the sunny Vegas backdrop, he is engaging enough to make us care about him and the story. Director Simon West doesn't forget what most Statham fans want to see, however, which is bad guys getting their comeuppance in a violent manner and the film does include a couple of well-shot and exciting action sequences to get the blood pumping.
But the action only tells half the story. Most of the time, the movie charts Nick's rise and fall over the course of a few days and it is a lot more talkative than a lot of Statham's back catalogue. It's also nice to see what I like to call 'traditional Vegas' on screen. Stuff like The Hangover (5) features the Strip quite a bit whereas Fremont Street (where old Vegas resides) is instantly reminiscent of earlier Vegas movies, when Elvis was still singing Viva Las Vegas (6) and you could still smell the burning residue from the last atomic bomb test under the watchful gaze of Vegas Vic. Wild Card feels like a genuine Vegas flick - dirty and grubby but beautifully lit by a million neon lights.
- To help stay lean for the role, Statham resorted to a diet of spinach and brown rice.
- The film was released by Lionsgate Entertainment both in cinemas and via On Demand services simultaneously.
- The film's global box office takings was a measly $3.4 million at time of writing against the film's £30 million budget. In the US, the film made just £3200 in total!
What's not to like?
The problem with a lot of films like this that have split personalities is that it's hard to know what to make of it. Whilst the action scenes are good, they are far too infrequent to make the movie appealing to Statham's core fan base. But if it's a character study then the movie's meandering plot and endless list of minor characters doesn't give the film any sort of drive. It feels very slow and while the cameos make interesting reading (Anne Heche, Stanley Tucci, Jason Alexander and Sofia Vergera all appear briefly), none of them propel the film forwards. They pop up for a moment, do their thing and disappear, never to be seen again. Why?
And while he may be giving it his all, Statham never really convinces unless he's kicking someone in the nuts or punching them in the face. I got the sense that here was an actor who signed up, eager to learn his lines and remember his cues but then got bored waiting for the big fight scenes that he usually enjoys. Believe it or not, I have faith in Statham - his debut in Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels (7) proves that he is an adept comic actor when given the chance but since then, he's gotten himself totally typecast as a meathead from the East End of London. Whether there's an actual actor in there, only time will tell. But on this evidence, I'm not going to hold my breath.
Should I watch it?
While not being his finest hour, Wild Card remains an interesting film for Statham fans. Yes, there's not that much action in it but what is there is top quality. Instead, it marks a change of pace for him and although it's not entirely successful, it shows that he is fed up with being a one-trick pony. Trouble is, I'm not sure that a plodding character study into a character who is already fairly shallow is the way to go. Sorry but Wild Card is a bit of a busted flush.
Great For: Statham's agent, action fans needing a rest, Burt Reynold's confidence
Not So Great For: Statham's fans, drama teachers, Goldman's book sales
What else should I watch?
Statham fans will have a long list of movies demonstrating why he's a leading character in The Expendables (8) franchise. Either The Transporter (9) or Crank (10) show viewers just how good Statham can be during a big action sequence or if you fancy a laugh, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch (11) are good for a giggle.
Vegas has obviously seen a fair number of movies over the years, none with quite the same impact as The Hangover which is a riotous and inventive comedy that is considerably better than either of its witless sequels. Or for the ultimate love letter to Sin City, what about George Clooney's Ocean's 11 (12) which has charm, style, humour and a silky smoothness that defies belief and makes you forget about plot holes.