Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
When you commit to watching a movie headlined by British hard man Jason Statham, you know what it is you’re signing up for and his latest action thriller does exactly what it says on the tin. Adapted from the novel Heat by author William Goldman and directed by genre veteran Simon West, Wild Card is an over the top testosterone fest that manages to thrill and entertain in its ridiculousness.
The plot is fairly thin, following Las Vegas based bodyguard and muscle for hire Nick Card as he deals with gambling problems, the mob and clients looking to add a little danger and excitement to their lives. The main narrative thread centres around the consequences of a violent run in between Card and a lowlife thug with mafia ties who assaulted a woman with whom the protagonist has a previous relationship.
The story plays more like a series of vaguely connected events in Card’s life that are bound together by a loose connective rope. The best way to appreciate this film is to leave your brain at the door and not think too much as it unfolds. By enjoying each sequence as it comes and not worrying about where it’s all going, it makes for a good popcorn piece as a whole.
Statham starring vehicles are not renowned for their depth or intricacy but that’s a major part of their appeal. The actor’s work is arguably the closest equivalent that contemporary cinema has to the beloved action classics of the eighties and early nineties that were executed to cheesy perfection by the likes of Schwarzenegger and Stallone. That being said, Wild Card isn’t as heavy on the set pieces as you might expect.
A considerable portion of the script dwells on the main character’s vices and desire to break free of his circumstances to live the good life abroad, but this certainly isn’t to its detriment. In fact, it actually manages to bring a fair amount of tension and suspense to the proceedings. An extended scene in which Card tackles the Blackjack tables in a casino is particularly gripping.
When the action does comes though, it doesn’t pull any punches. A pulse pounding hotel room brawl will educate you in the many ways in which a credit card can come in useful, while mayhem rains down during an adrenaline fuelled climactic showdown that is drenched in blood and brutality. The visual aspect of the fights is what makes them truly noteworthy however, with some remarkably stunning cinematography and choreography on display.
Statham seems at home in both the action and the part, donning a characteristically gruff persona and stone faced demeanour. There isn’t much in his performance to differentiate Card from most of the actor’s other roles, but that’s not a criticism. Like many of his genre peers, Statham is basically a character unto himself and that’s what’s great about him. Whether he’s going by the name of Frank Martin or Lee Christmas, as long as he’s acting tough, exuding charisma and kicking ass, he can’t fail. It’s what has rightfully earned him a reputation as a modern day action legend.
The movie succeeds in being quite humorous at times as well. Stanley Tucci marches out as slick mafia boss Baby and clearly has a great time in doing so. The exchange of dialogue between himself and Card results in some genuinely funny moments. Michael Angarano also has an amusing turn as a young man who avails of the protagonist’s services and ends up being an unexpectedly crucial presence in his life.
All in all, Wild Card is an easy way to spend ninety minutes. It’s unlikely to win any awards and doesn’t break new ground, it just does what Statham films do best; entertain and delight in their absurdity. There’s enough action, comedy, drama and suspense thrown into the mix to keep it afloat and enjoyable until the credits roll.
Follow @davesimpson1 on Twitter for notifications about new posts.