Starring: Jason Statham, Stanley Tucci, Sofia Vergara
After his friend is severely beaten and left for dead, Las Vegas bodyguard Nick Wild (Statham) seeks revenge. However, a combination of this and his severe gambling problem leads to him being plunged into the criminal underworld while being wanted by the mob.
Love him or hate him, Jason Statham has found his niche and is undoubtedly very good at what he does. In an age of films where old-timers just shoot at each other, Statham at least stars in films where his characters are not afraid to get involved in some good old fashioned fisticuffs, and he does do it so well!
The screenplay for Wild Card is actually written by William Goldman and is an adaptation of his own novel Heat; though I of course have no idea how good the novel is, or indeed the original premise of his screenplay, the film Wild Card is a completely bonkers and totally ill-disciplined cacophony of random subplots and ideas (as well as a bizarre festive soundtrack) that only just about works thanks to the equally bonkers and over the top fight sequences and Statham’s natural charisma. Wild Card is certainly entertaining while on, but once over the only impression it leaves in the memory is the viewer trying to figure out what the hell they have just watched!
As a film, Wild Card is a bizarre hybrid that does occasionally flirt with being a serious character driven narrative and deal with some genuinely interesting themes such as the protagonist’s absolute hatred with Las Vegas but his inability to ever leave. There is a really interesting idea in there somewhere regarding Las Vegas being a place that is addictive and impossible to leave, despite the natural hatred our protagonist has for it. Alas, these are just brief flirtations as Simon West, never the most subtle of directors, has absolute no interest in putting together a narrative that is even slightly coherent and just seems to only have eyes for putting together fight sequences.
The film’s opening twenty minute sequence turns out to be completely pointless, while random characters come and go from the narrative. The only real character with a genuine arc is Michael Angarano’s young and impressionable Cyrus who pretty much hero worships Statham’s character, and though his character proves crucial to the narrative at one point, it feels hideously neat and tidy, not to mention lazily written. Then when surely things couldn’t get any more random Stanley Tucci turns up for one scene wearing an outrageous wig! This whole sequence is bizarre and admittedly quite surreal (but I doubt it was intended to be that way) and it is only thanks to Tucci’s charisma that this whole sequence is watchable and not excruciatingly cringe worthy.
The fight sequences themselves are completely over the top with slow motion shots, and are often to the tune of crooner versions of classic Christmas songs (!), but if anyone is going make scenes like these entertaining and any implement as a believable instrument of death, it is the Stathe! Unfortunately the fact it is the Stathe means any true sense of peril (though the bonkers narrative makes a good attempt at taking that away anyway) is never really there.
The narrative of Wild Card does try to include a character arc for its protagonist in there somewhere, and perhaps maybe Goldman’s original screenplay did this very well. The biggest shame of all is that Statham, given the right material could pull this off, but alas the final film created by director Simon West is an absolute narrative mess, and is only entertaining for predominantly the wrong reasons.
What could have been a potentially interesting character study is completely destroyed by a director’s total disregard for actual narrative coherence; Wild Card may well feature a watchable-as-ever Statham deliver with aplomb his usual unique brand of fisticuffs, but it is a complete narrative mess.