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wild-card-posterGenre: Action, Crime, Drama

Directed by: Simon West

Starring: Jason Statham, Stanley Tucci, Michael Angarano, Hope Davis

With Steven Knight’s Hummingbird, Jason Statham attempted to branch out from the usual meat headed action fare of which he’s been associated with and go for something a little more dramatic. Critics and audiences were, quite unfairly, none too kind to Statham and Knight’s film.

The same has unfortunately been the case with Wild Card. Critics have been rather snooty in their appraisal of The Stath’s latest, the film’s concoction of character study dynamics and bone crunching fisticuffs failing to resonate; something that has been duly reflected in the US where the film bombed when it was released in January.

Statham plays Nick Wild, a Las Vegas “security consultant” and bodyguard/enforcer type with aspirations of living out his days on a boat in Corsica, who unfortunately has a penchant for the Black Jack tables. After an old friend appeals to him for help, Wild soon finds himself in the sightline of some truly unsavoury east coast mobsters.

Taken in context with the rest of Statham’s work, Wild Card does at least attempt to tell a character driven story, with its focus squarely on the flawed leading man. Wild is a man with plenty of foibles; a man with a good heart and a longing for escape, but whose penchant for the tables keep him locked firmly in the realm of the underground cesspool that is Las Vegas. The script (credited to William Goldman) doesn’t break any new ground and is fairly predictable in its design, but director Simon West (Con Air, The Mechanic) ably serves up proceedings in a perfectly functional, unfussy manner.
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Statham is without doubt one of the finest action stars working today. With screen charisma to burn and a fondness for throwing a few punches or two, he more than shines once again. Of course, Statham is never one for excessive range in his acting work but what he does, he does exceedingly well.

There are flaws of course. The rest of the uniformly decent cast including Jason Alexander, Hope Davis and Stanley Tucci are wasted and woefully underused. The plot is predictable and wafer thin, with the tone wavering between gruff character pieces and beat ‘em up sequences. The effect can be jarring but never enough to completely remove you from proceedings. It is here though, that some might take issue. Wild Card attempts to have its cake and eat it too. Like Hummingbird, Wild Card wants to be a character driven crime drama, but then the business side takes over and the need to appeal to Statham’s brand comes across, with one or two fight scenes seemingly shoehorned in to appeal to the actor’s hardcore fan base. 

Wild Card doesn’t break any new ground, but it does offer an evolution in Statham’s career, hopefully one that he continues to pursue with future action movies. It’s also far more entertaining and far more enjoyable than the other action fare that’s out this week (cough The Gunman cough cough).

★★★

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