Everyone loves Jason “The Stath” Statham. He’s become known for the no-nonsense-younger-than-Ray-Winstone-yet-more-refined-than-Vinnie-Jones vibe that Hollywood loves in a movie hard man. His typecasting as an antihero is well-justified; it’s what he does best.
So imagine this writer’s surprise when he appeared in a film professing itself to be a crime-action thriller which is neither action-packed nor thrilling. Statham plays a Vegas bodyguard in Wild Card, a film which somehow turns a tale of revenge involving the mafia, blackjack and prostitutes into a mind-numbingly dull affair. Statham by all accounts is his regular antihero self, however where he might have been expected to oil up and hit people with mundane objects (see every film he’s ever been in), the audience was left waiting 40 minutes for him to even land a punch. That’s 40 minutes of needless exposition that could’ve been filled with some ‘scumbag’ getting his head kicked in.
Statham does his best to give his character extra dimensions, navigating the juxtaposing aspects of Nick Wild’s personality; between a jaded man looking to save money to escape the Vegas trap, and a gambler whose addiction threatens to ruin his dreams. Yet the plot rapidly becomes mired in sleazy machismo and side plots which trail off to nothing, leaving the fate of various characters frustratingly unknown; or at least they would be frustrating had they been sufficiently developed in the first place.
Had Wild Card just kept itself to a study of character, the film would have been far simpler and greatly improved for it. Was it too much to ask for a few more action sequences? Maybe a punch-up in the hotel lobby? Who wouldn’t want to see Statham tear through a mob family because they refused him access to the slot machines? These shortcomings are exacerbated by the cinematographer’s choice of a muted colour palette and lacklustre slow pans, neither of which are suited to Statham’s talents. Wild Card didn’t need to be Oscar-worthy; it just needed to be fun. Instead it is formulaic, and worse, irretrievably boring.