Jason Statham is up to his same old tricks as a hard drinking, bruising, gambling bad guy, trying to leave the Vegas life in “Wild Card,” an action crime drama costarring Michael Angarano, Milo Ventimiglia, Hope Davis and Sofia Vergara.
A remake of the 1986 William Goldman novel turned into the Burt Reynolds film, “Heat,” this latest addition to the martial arts maestro’s filmography dishes out some stellar action sequences, but lacks the unpredictability its title would suggest. Part gambling drama, part revenge thriller, all nonsense, Statham’s third outing with veteran action director Simon West (“The Mechanic,” “The Expendables 2”) should appeal to his core audience, but will underwhelm those looking for a more well-rounded moviegoing experience.
In “Wild Card,” Statham plays Nick Wild, a Las Vegas security consultant and ex-mercenary who chaperones high rollers around the gambling mecca. Nick has lived in Vegas long enough to see many dreams dashed, his own included, and as his constant scowl and heavy boozing indicates, it’s starting to take its toll. However, as the overused dream sequences make abundantly clear, there’s still one dream he’s holding fast to: sailing away to Corsica for retirement.
“Wild Card” kicks into high gear when Nick is approached by a badly beaten escort (Dominik Garcia-Lorido) looking for revenge on the mob-type clients that brutalized her. When Nick obliges her request, circumstances result in a crumpled heap of bad guys and some seriously bruised feelings, as he finds himself in the crosshairs of what seems like the entire Las Vegas underworld. While Nick tries to accumulate enough earnings at the blackjack table — five hundred grand to be exact — to make his grand Corsican escape, he befriends a nerdy client (Michael Angarano) who is more than meets the eye. As the mobsters close in, Nick is forced to unleash the full range of his mercenary skills.
Although “Wild Card” features some catchy dialogue and lively, well-choreographed action sequences, as an overall film, it’s too episodic and inconsequential to register. Adapting his own novel for the second time, William Goldman’s screenplay feels less like a fully fleshed out story than a series of poorly plotted setups that merely accommodate the many slow-motion fight scenes. Not helping matters is the uneven tone, which blends moments of hit-and-miss humor with extreme violence, or the anticlimactic final showdown that ends with a whimper instead of a bang.
Even though “Wild Card” is an inferior Jason Statham vehicle, it still features a performance on par with his previous work – full of charisma, sarcasm and menace. But it’s no secret that Statham’s fight scenes are what really draws a crowd, and his fans will have plenty to drool over here, including a wonderfully absurd casino floor battle royale. Fisticuffs aside, Statham is most enjoyable in his scenes with Angarano (“The Knick,” “Gentlemen Broncos”) as the brilliant, but socially deficient Kinnick, and Davis as his favorite blackjack dealer. Ventimiglia excels as an over-the-top mobster with an endless supply of goons, and there’s also blink-and-you’ll-miss cameos from Jason Alexander, Stanley Tucci, Anne Heche and Sofia Vergara.
Unless you’re a staunch Statham supporter, the odds of enjoying “Wild Card” are not in your favor.
By Lucas Mirabella
Running Time: 92 minutes
Rated R for strong violence, language, and some sexuality/nudity