Wild Card
dir Simon West
scr William Goldman
prd Steven Chasman
with Jason Statham, Michael Angarano, Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Hope Davis, Milo Ventimiglia, Stanley Tucci, Anne Heche, Max Casella, Sofia Vergara, Jason Alexander, Francois Vincentelli, Davenia McFadden
release US 30.Jan.15, UK 20.Mar.15
15/US Lionsgate 1h32
Wild Card
Welcome to the punch: Statham and Ventimiglia

angarano davis tucci
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Wild Card A jazzy tone and a seedy Vegas setting sets this loose noir thriller slightly apart from other Jason Statham action movies, although it's not unique enough to demand attention from non-fans who might be looking for something new. It's sharply made and nicely played, but ultimately thin and simplistic.

Nick Wild (Statham) works as a security consultant for Pinky (Alexander), a Las Vegas lawyer whose latest client is nervous young gambler Cyrus (Angarano). Nick shows Cyrus his high-rolling gambling skills, winning and losing vast sums of cash at the blackjack table of dealer his friend Cassandra (Davis). Meanwhile, Nick's ex-girlfriend Holly (Garcia-Lorido) asks him to get revenge on swaggering gangster Donny (Ventimiglia), who brutally attacked and terrorised her for fun. But Nick's pursuit of Donny has him on a collision course with the big boss Baby (Tucci).

The character isn't exactly a stretch for Statham: a jaded, washed-up former black-ops soldier with both mental and physical agility, and in need of some action-based redemption. In other words, Statham coasts easily through the role, and barely seems to break a sweat even in fight scenes shot in super slow-motion to show Nick's uncanny ability to turn ordinary objects into fatal weapons (the hedge-shears scene is seriously cringe-inducing). It's the supporting cast that adds the colour, with ripping extended cameos from the likes of Ventimiglia, Vergara, Heche, Casella and scene-stealer extraordinaire Tucci.

It's also written and directed with considerable spark, packing the interaction with innuendo and snappy banter, plus an impatient editing style cuts into the next scene before this scene is over. So the film feels groovy and cool, even if there's nothing remotely original going on. The central idea that Cyrus wants to learn from Nick makes no sense at all (he's a billionaire who could hire anyone he wants). And the super-violent fights are so intricately choreographed that they never seem real.

But then, this is just mindless entertainment, building the illusion of tension without worrying the audience too much. Perhaps the most intriguing idea is that Nick is actually happy being a loser, preferring to avoid the cash he could so easily accrue to drift around the edges of this money-based city. He's widely respected and keeps to himself, living in a cheap hotel. And if the film had bothered to dig even a little beneath his surface it might at least have been a guilty pleasure.

cert 15 themes, violence, language, nudity 8.Mar.15

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