When you see there’s a movie starring Jason Statham, you usually figure it’s an action movie. The guy who made a name for himself doing movies like The Transporter and Crank rarely does anything else. But although Wild Card purports to be another Statham actioner – just look at the poster above – I’m not so sure it is. Yes, there are some action scenes. Well, more specifically there are three action scenes. Which means the rest of the movie is actually more of a drama. You could see it as Statham’s chance to prove he’s not a one trick pony. Alas…
This time around, Statham is Nick Wild, an independent strongman in Las Vegas offering private security to high rollers, among other services less honest (though none, it would seem, truly criminal). He dreams of one day escaping the clutches of Vegas to sail the Mediterranean, but may have finally pushed his luck too far when a prostitute friend enlists him to help her get back at a man who beat and raped her – but he’s staying in a hotel run by a mobster Nick has a live-and-let-live understanding with.
Let’s start with the action scenes, because they’re easily the highlight of the movie. The first, when Nick first confronts the rapist and his thugs, is also the best. Up until this point, Nick seems no more than the capable everyman, so the scene benefits from surprise factor as Nick breaks the mold and reveals himself to be more the Jason Bourne type. It’s hard to call it unexpected in the context of a Jason Statham movie, but in context it’s effective. The other two fights have some decent choreography, but lacking the shocking efficiency of the first – which is easily the shortest – they don’t distinguish themselves. We’ve seen this kind of any-tool-at-hand style before, and often better. There’s no hook here, no special weapon or unique fighting style, to make Wild Card’s action sequences memorable.
At right about 90 minutes, Wild Card moves along at a brisk pace, but with just the three fight scenes to hold up the action end of the bargain, the drama of the, ahem, “narrative and characters” is intended to shoulder most of the film’s weight. Suffice it to say that they don’t. There are some hints at a more colorful past for Nick that perhaps had even brought him some fame earlier in his life, but these potentially more interesting adventures are never more than a distant whisper. Even his dream of moving to Corsica and taking up a life of sailing, something that’s frequently referenced in both word and imagery, proves an empty motivation for Nick, undercutting most of the believable and human characterization he’s given – not to mention throwing a wrench in what’s already an unbearably screwball plot that involves a sudden prescience at blackjack and gambling twenty five thousand dollars into half a million.
The supporting cast fares little better. Michael Agnarano (The English Teacher) figures in as a high rolling rich kid who idolizes Nick’s skill and bravery, but he’s little more than a plot device and occasional distraction. More oddly, Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games), Sofia Vergara (Modern Family), and Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) all show up for supporting roles, but none of them stay longer than a single scene. And perhaps most damningly, the catalyst for the whole shebang, the prostitute played by Dominik Garcia-Lorido, disappears halfway through the movie, which is narratively strange but cinematically welcome since she’s the weakest link in the whole rusty chain.
The Verdict: 1 out of 5
You know what this is? It’s a frat boy film. And I say that with apologies to some friends who were frat boys once in their lives. It’s an empty film that glories in rote narrative, stock stereotypes (I struggle even to call them characters), and the lack of absolutely anything thematically worthwhile, all in service of delivering a couple fight scenes that look alright but are halfway creatively bankrupt themselves. There’s just nothing to this movie, nothing it’s building to, nothing it even seems to be trying to say.