Take a Drink: anytime Nick gambles
Take a Drink: whenever Nick drinks some grapefruit juice
Take a Drink: for each badass Statham moment
Take a Drink: for each odd editing moment
Do a Shot: whenever another random character actor appears on screen
By: Matt Conway (Four Beers) –
It’s odd how, despite being known and loved as one of Hollywood’s best action starts, Jason Statham has not had as much success as everybody would think. He has been a solid supporting player in successful films like The Expendables and Gnomeo and Juliet, but has had not seen as much success as a standalone action star. He has yet to star in a film that has earned over 50 million domestically, and his last three films, Safe, Parker, and Homefront all underperformed.
With only so-so success with more mainstream action films, Statham has made an interesting decision to star in smaller, more personal action films. The last example of this was 2013’s Redemption, which, while not very successful, featured quite a few admirable qualities and gave Statham a chance to act a bit more. I feel the same way about his latest Wild Card, which despite some highlight moments, fails to stand out.
Wild Card follows Nick Wild, a bodyguard with a gambling problem who is trying to find his way out of Las Vegas. Getting out might be harder now, however, after messing with Danny DeMarco, who is a core member of the mob.
While the same can not be said about his’s Expendables co-stars, Statham is an actor who always gives it his all even in bad films. In Wild Card, Statham is given more of a chance to act compared to his other action films, and is very much up for the task. He as usual is very likable and charming, but actually portrays a degenerate gambler with a lot of conviction.
Compared to the usual Statham action film, Wild Card is very much subdued. Audiences may be surprised that the film is instead more focused on its characters rather than just showing people a good time. Personally, that is a very admirable goal to achieve, as most action films just try to get by with the very bare minimum as far as story and characters go to please audiences.
Even though there is not as much action as in the typical Statham action film, the action setpieces in this film are quite good. Director Simon West is a veteran when it comes to action films, with successful efforts previously with Con-Air and The Expendables 2. Here, West does quite a good job, encompassing an appropriate amount of style in each setpiece, while just letting Statham kick ass. Considering his character does not use guns, there are quite a few unique fights, including a brawl in which Nick uses spoons.
West also does a solid job with the film’s look. The film, despite showing off a Las Vegas setting, was actually shot in New Orleans. However, it still looks quite convincingly like Las Vegas. West also does a nice job of making the few gambling scenes quite exciting, with there being a great deal of style that intensifies the stakes. Long-time cinematographer Shelly Johnson also does a nice job shooting the film, creating a gritty look whether it be the city streets or the trashy casinos.
Wild Card as a film is way too short. At only 86 minutes long, Wild Card feels like it is either incomplete or was severely edited down. This short of a running time is the stem of a lot of the film’s biggest issues, as the film feels like it’s almost missing a third act as far as the story goes.
With there not feeling like there is a third act, the ending of the film feels extremely rushed and forced. Wild Card tries too hard to wrap up the story and characters in a neat bow, which comes off as very insincere considering where the film was going beforehand. This is especially the case with a character revelation that kind of comes out of nowhere, and clearly was developed more in an earlier version of the script.
The film as a whole feels extremely over-stuffed. Academy Award winning scribe William Goldman is clearly a skilled writer and touches on a lot of solid aspects here. However, Goldman’s script features too many plot elements and side characters that just feel like a distraction to the main arc of the story, rather than being a solid continuation of the film’s universe.
With that over-stuffed story comes what is largely a solid supporting cast being wasted on bit roles. Actors like Hope Davis, Jason Alexander, and Stanley Tucci are relegated to minor roles that feel like a big waste of their time and talent. Perhaps the worst case of this is with Sofia Vergara, who is only in the opening scene of the film, which honestly felt like it was from a different movie.
Despite its efforts to create characters with depth, Wild Card never is able to truly achieve that goal. Jason Statham is believable in his role, but attempts at building his character with backstory just never come together. The same could be said about Michael Angarano’s character, who despite being featured in a majority of the film, is left playing a largely one-note character.
Wild Card’s biggest letdown is that it flirts with being better than the average action film, but is never able to follow through with that ambition. It’s always good to try, but that effort feels largely half-assed when looking at the story and characters surrounding Statham. It’s clear that the film is trying to say something more, but that message never gets across to the audience.
Wild Card features another solid Jason Statham performance and some bigger ideas, but never is able to follow through with them. Hopefully Statham continues to test himself as an actor, but hopefully next time will have a better film around him.