Messy, misjudged actioner from Simon West, starring Jason Statham
Jason Statham has gravitated towards certain types of characters to such a degree that his name has become cinematic shorthand for 'thug with a heart of gold'. His latest, Nick Wild, is cast from exactly the same mould, but operates in an environment so repugnant that it's impossible to derive even the guiltiest of pleasures from his exploits.
A security expert working in the backstreets of Las Vegas, Wild longs to sail off into the Mediterranean sunset, frequently betting (and losing) large sums of money in pursuit of this dream. When his friend Holly (Dominik García-Lorido) falls foul of violent mobster Danny (a miscast Milo Ventimiglia), Wild helps her exact her (decidedly toothless) revenge, putting a target squarely on his back that proves difficult to shake off.
Adapted by William Goldman from his own 1985 novel Heat (previously brought to screen in the 1986 film of the same name, starring Burt Reynolds), Wild Card comes nowhere close to his previous works such as All the President's Men and The Princess Bride. Tonally, it's a mess; the hard-bitten dialogue is outdated and laboured, Statham chewing on his lines like a British bulldog, and parallels between the Vegas setting and Wild's character – he is gambling with his life, he has a killer hand, etc - are obvious and overdone. And while director Simon West knows how to make the most of Statham's physicality, having previously worked with him on The Expendables 2 and The Mechanic, the fight scenes are repetitive and dull.
The film strikes a particularly sour note in its flippant treatment of women, who all appear in various roles of servitude – mere commodities on Wild's journey towards salvation. And while Wild risks his life seeking justice for Holly's horrific abuse, the camera lingers over her agony in a series of slow-motion flashbacks – a decidedly nasty touch in a film made up of such moments. With Wild Card, Statham may finally have overplayed his hand.
General release from Fri 20 Mar.