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Devoid of any character development, meaningful plot, or originality, Simon West seeks to prove that Jason Statham is one bad dude. Existing solely as a vehicle for several overblown action scenes, West’s Wild Card seems to bore even itself when Statham is not pitted against a crowd of Mafia goons.
Nick Wild (Jason Statham) is a Las Vegas security expert who hates both Las Vegas and security detail. When Nick’s friend Holly (Dominik García-Lorido) is brutalized by an East Coast Mafia-connected Danny DeMarco (Milo Ventimiglai), Nick is extremely hesitant to act. While dodging Holly’s troubles, Nick stops in at the office he shares with local lawyer Pinky (Jason Alexander), where the audience is made fully aware of Nick’s wildly impressive skills. A nervous, mousey customer, Cyrus Kinnick (Michael Angarano) walks in, and hires Nick as a security escort for his evening gambling session. Completely unable to face the world without protection, Kinnick’s brand of paranoia proves to be the final tipping point for Nick, who finally decides to help Holly get her revenge. Knowing that it will likely be his last night in Vegas, Nick unleashes some personal demons while unleashing a calm ferocity upon legions of Mafia foot soldiers commanded by DeMarco.
Much like the script, Simon West’s direction is predictable and singularly-focused. The only trick up his sleeves is a slow motion burst whenever Nick is about to kick some serious ass. An overused technology in today’s action films, slow motion has used up its originality, and become a VFX-enhanced, elongated gore fest, devoid of any emotion or tension. Stunt coordinators Brad Martin and Ron Yuan do a respectable job with the fight scenes, especially in Nick’s use of everyday objects instead of traditional weapons (especially guns). However, the scenes themselves lack any real punch due to choppy editing and overly-dynamic camera movements.
The story was written and adapted for the screen by William Goldman who is equally concerned with the action – leaving no room for any actual emotion. With the amount of cliché characters and storytelling tropes, Goldman’s screenplay would be brilliant satire if it wasn’t so self-important. Character elements are introduced exclusively to create or solve problems, and Nick’s own rocky past serves as a minute turning point late in the second act. Wild Card takes itself far too seriously with heavy themes of rape and gambling addiction, yet never addresses either, using them only as a means of furthering the half-baked plot.
Statham returns to the character that he created over a decade ago with films like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and The Transporter; inhabiting the karate kicking, smooth talking badass as convincingly as ever. Hitting all his cues and injecting a trademark cynical humor, Statham’s Nick is the most compelling aspect of Wild Card. Great supporting parts (due mostly to star power) played by Jason Alexander and Stanley Tucci provide some interesting surroundings in the otherwise shallow and glitzy Las Vegas setting. While seldom focused upon, Michael Angarano and Dominik García-Lorido come across like side players in a daytime soap opera – stiff and emotionless given the gravity of their individual situations.
Chintzy and lifeless, Wild Card is hackneyed and dull from its Sinatra-scored opening medley of brightly-lit Las Vegas Casinos, until the final fade-out into the sunset. What would have been a delightful, Crank-inspired, over-the-top satire is rendered impotent through a staunch adherence to traditional narrative and unimaginative direction. Yet another mechanism in which Jason Statham is able to exert his masculinity, Wild Card is a complete failure on all other fronts.