I have a secret. A confession. An embarrassing admission. I am a 41-year-old heterosexual male, reasonably healthy, relatively sound of mind and body with diverse, eclectic, some may say, pretentious taste. In art. In literature. In film. But I love Jason Statham movies!

At their best (Safe, Crank) they’re more fun than lesbian clown porn, at their worst…well, like fellatio, sushi and the short stories of Harlan Ellison, they’re still pretty damn good.

Except for Revolver. Revolver is shit.

Which brings us to Wild Card, a States-side flop, washing up unheralded on our shores, that’s a lot better than it should be. A lesser Statham movie sure but still fun, Wild Card is an adaptation of a lesser William Goldman novel, Heat (published in the UK as Edged Weapons), and previously filmed in 1986 with Burt Reynolds. Scripted by Goldman and anonymously directed by Simon West, Statham stars as Nick Wild, a Las Vegas bodyguard and soldier of fortune with a serious gambling addiction. He’s also an expert in unarmed combat, able to use any object with an edge (credit cards, spoons, etc) as a deadly weapon.

Hired by young self-made millionaire Cyrus Kinnick (Michael Angarano) to “chaperone” him around town, show him the sights and protect him as he gambles, Nick is also enlisted in a dangerous revenge plot by friend and call girl Holly (Andy Garcia’s daughter Dominick Garcia-Lorida). Battered and bruised, Holly wants to get even with brutal young mobster Danny DeMarco (a particularly loathsome Milo Ventimiglia), the vacationing clown prince of an East Coast Mafia crime family who raped and beat her half to death, and Nick’s the only man she trusts to get the job done. But Nick has problems of his own, not least of which is winning enough money at the tables to move to Europe and quit the life for good…

Usually tight-lipped and taciturn, Statham heroes are throwbacks to an earlier era of movie star machismo, men of honour, men who operate by their own code, men who can take a beating and dish one out. Statham may never have made a Western but he’s always played cowboys, that essentially Western incarnation of the knight errant. While he’s chattier than usual, as bruising with his quips as his fists, Statham’s Nick, a compulsive gambler, is also more vulnerable than we’re used to seeing him. He’s a man gripped by the throes of his addiction, not just to gambling but to danger, and Wild Card plays more like an existential crime thriller, equal parts The Gambler (the Jimmy Caan version rather than the Marky Mark) and Death Wish and while the relatively few fight scenes are as brutal and exhilarating as we’ve come to expect from the Stath, the true joy of Wild Card lies in Statham’s interactions with the film’s minor characters; bantering with Anne Heche’s waitress and Jason Alexander’s business partner, quizzing Davenia McFadden’s chamber maid/informant, the sad, bittersweet exchanges with Hope Davis’ caring croupier, Goldman’s rat-tat-tat dialogue the perfect compliment to Statham’s crumpled, melancholy performance.

Ultimately, Wild Card’s a little too leisurely paced and laidback for it’s own good, it’s tone a little too idiosyncratic to truly satisfy, but it’s lurid ‘80s noir vibe is refreshing and who doesn’t want to see Statham take on a car park full of heavily armed gangsters armed with just a spoon and a butter knife?

If nothing else, you’ll have more fun watching Wild Card than watching The Gunman. Which isn’t even as good as Revolver. And Revolver is shit.

Movie Review: Wild Card
3.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)

About The Author