Jason Statham is a brand, whether he wants to be or not. And actors like that can get in trouble with their audience if they try to veer too far away from that and branch out. Then again, if they take a chance and attempt something slightly different, they could come up aces. And that is exactly what happens with Statham and his latest, Wild Card.
Statham is Nick Wild (great name, no?) and he is a Las Vegas bodyguard with a penchant for gambling all his money away and barely getting by. He continually swears that he wants to leave Sin City, but needs a certain amount of cash to do so. The thing is, even if he had the amount he believes is enough, would he hold onto the money long enough to leave without hitting another blackjack table?
What sets Wild Card apart from some of the other solo Statham movies is that, believe it or not, it is not until the end of the first act that we get to see him kick and punch anyone! That has to be a record, and it’s because Statham and his director Simon West (Tomb Raider, Con Air and The Expendables 2) actually took the time to do a little character development so that when our man Wild is forced to use force, we want him to hit so hard he knocks people into Arizona.
Wild gets into a little trouble with the mob. As he sees it, the only way out is to try to win the money he owes, make some for himself off those winnings (i.e. that amount he thinks he needs to leave town), pay his debt and get out of Dodge.
Not to credit Statham with going too deep here, but he is playing a gambler and even though he can punch and kick his way out of any dangerous situation, the actor plays Wild as someone who never knows when to say when. And no matter the vice, that is exactly what an addict does before hitting rock bottom and even realizing that there is a problem.
In Wild Card, there is a side story involving a young multi-millionaire who hires Wild to show him around town. It is a nice sub story in the film as it provides the catalyst for Statham’s character to even consider changing his ways. They are actually each other’s first friend and this relationship allows us to truly believe that now we have an ass kicker with a purpose. He could possibly get away with his crazy plan to save his hide, make a ton of cash and jet out of town.
There are cliches throughout, such as the Vegas gangsters who are led by Milo Ventimiglia’s Danny, who is a bit one-sided. The supporting cast is solid enough to look past some of those missteps, such as the fantastic Stanley Tucci, Jason Alexander as Statham’s lawyer, Anne Heche as his waitress friend Roxy and even Hope Davis as a casino worker friend who, yes, has a heart of gold.
Now, we’re a bit biased as Movie Fanatic is firmly in the Jason Statham camp of fandom. But we can admit when he makes a huge mistake (Parker!). Yet, our Wild Card review has to give the action hero credit for trying to stretch himself, albeit just a little bit.