Nick Wild (Jason Statham) is in a near-deserted bar tonight, and notices an attractive woman (Sofía Vergara) come in and say she’s waiting for someone when he approaches. However, he won’t take no for an answer and grows ever more forceful the further she tries to put him off, declining his offer of a drink and certainly declining his offer of a dance to the jukebox. By the time her boyfriend Osgood (Max Casella) has arrived Nick has retreated to the bar once again, but ventures over once he sits down and starts insulting him, so much so that Osgood thinks the best course of action is to leave. Yet Nick follows them both outside and continues his threatening behaviour, forcing his rival to turn to physical violence to put him off, successfully as it turns out. The lady’s affections for Osgood are secure…
Some point in the opening ten minutes of drama you will twig there is a scam going on the lady has not woken up to, and you never find out if she does either as this was a very different kind of movie for the Stath. It was a project – a remake of the Burt Reynolds movie Heat – that he had nurtured for some time, for there comes a time in many an action star’s career that they feel the pull of proper acting and like to prove themselves capable of a decent performance, but of course he had already done so in Hummingbird, a film that didn’t win much of a following. He hardly needed to, for his 2015 had seen him appearing in two of the biggest blockbusters of the year which would be achievement enough for most stars.
On the other hand, Wild Card may not have been the movie many were clamouring for, but it seemed to do Statham the power of good as far as boosting his ego went, a story that would have slotted right into the nineteen-seventies crime dramas he grew up with and scripted by the legendary William Goldman to boot, his first screenplay since, er, the megaflop Dreamcatcher. Fortunately, with this he redeemed himself, offering some very nice character bits for each of the cast and three opportunities for the leading man to strut his stuff in Corey Yuen choreographed combat sequences, which sad to say was probably not enough for Statham’s diehard fans who wished to watch him kicking bottom every fifteen minutes.
But don’t listen to them, there are plenty of other movies to see that in, allow the guy his chance to portray a human being and he demonstrated some chops, and not just karate chops. Obviously with this actor you were expecting things to kick off eventually, but director Simon West took his sweet time over reaching those parts with scenes designed to build up a distinct personality, and since the narrative was set in Las Vegas the theme of taking a gamble was pretty much an obligatory aspect of the proceedings. Not just gambling at the casinos, but gambling on your friends and associates who may let you down badly, but might just reward your companionship with a real bonus, and a reason to keep ploughing on with life because that retirement to Corsica may well be within your grasp.
That’s what Nick wishes for anyway, but as we meet him he couldn’t be further from it, staging scams for two bit chancers for the sake of a few hundred dollars that he knows won’t last long in this town. His official job description is Security Advisor, that’s on the door of his office, or rather the office of Jason Alexander’s lawyer business which he ostensibly works for, one example of a neat character turn from a seasoned actor in support that the film thrived on. Even if you were not a fan of Statham, those other cast members more than made up for any perceived deficiencies, yet that said the star was very well cast within his limits, as you would suppose he would be in light of how tailored this was to his talents. There was humour, enough to classify this as a comedy drama with thriller overtones as Nick gets caught up in the revenge plot of an ex (Dominik Garcia-Lorido) which mixes with his attempts to catch a break, always betting on a sunnier outcome than what seems likely. Not bad at all, especially if you were not a traditional Statham follower. Music by Dario Marianelli.