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Monday, April 20, 2015

Wild Card 2015 * * Stars

Wild CardDirector: Simon West
Year: 2015
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Jason Statham, Michael Angarano, Hope Davis

Towards the last half of 2015's Wild Card (my latest review), Jason Statham's character wins $500,000 playing blackjack at a random Las Vegas casino. I'm not a card player but I've consulted with someone who's dabbled in the sort. From what I've gathered, there's no way a pit boss would ever allow someone to rack up that much money without having them thrown out (or at least investigated). I mean doesn't the house usually win at thousand dollar tables? And isn't counting cards suppose to be illegal? Ah, it is a movie of course and a bitter plot attempt to let a muddled hero walk off into the sunset. To borrow from a British term (Statham's a Brit), this is slight rubbish I tell you.

Anyway, if you take away The Italian Job, The Expendables, and the new Fast and the Furious installment, Jason Statham hasn't really set the world on fire as a box office juggernaut. And remember, he didn't star in the films just mentioned, he was just a supporting member of the cast. When he's in the lead role, it's either direct-to-video time or his cinematic redundancies barely breaking even. Listen, the guy's not that bad of an actor and he's pretty solid in many a fight scene. It's just that he lacks the charisma of a Liam Neeson, or a Pierce Brosnan, or a Harrison Ford, or whatever. His arrogance besets him not to mention the fact that he's also a little bland. And no matter how many necks he breaks or how many bone crunches he causes, it's just hard to root for the guy, plain and simple.

Take his latest movie for instance, the uneven, messy Wild Card. Watching it, you get all kinds of different tones. This thing could be about gambling. It could be a mentoring movie. Heck, it might even be an action blowout. Who knows for sure. There are three blood-drenched fight scenes that you wait for between moments of overacting, talkiness, and incoherency. The plot for what it's worth, has Statham playing Nick Wild. You don't know exactly what he does for a living. I mean, he claims early on that he's not an attorney or a private investigator. My reasoning is that he's one bad dude who helps out people in need. Two examples of this would be his catering to a woman who gets beaten up and raped within an inch of her life. Another instance involves him protecting an out-of-town schlep (young millionaire) as he gambles and takes in the Sin City scenery (for the first time). Throughout the proceedings, it's evident that Nick is keeping busy but he obviously doesn't like Vegas. He wants to get out but needs money, a boatload of it. That's the gist of "Card". It could possibly register as another flick announcing Statham taking on the title of Steven Seagal, Jr. And I'm not talking Wild Card having similarities to Under Siege. This is more like something structured in the vein of 1996's The Glimmer Man (bummer).

What's on screen is mostly distracting, lush Vegas backdrop. It is directed by the man who made one of my favorite guilty pleasures of all time, Con Air. You wouldn't know it though because he loses anything hyper kinetic and slows scenes down producing a mild, noir effect. He also caters to Statham by showcasing his obligatory, slow motion kicks and chops in the violently loud confrontations. That brings me to this notion: I haven't seen many of his movies but I've always wondered if Shirebrook's bald, butt kicker has certain types of stipulations etched into his contract. Just a thought.

In addition to obedient direction and contract woes, Wild Card has a lot of cameos from high profile actors. However, they seem so fleeting, so irrelevant. Jason Alexander shows up for literally a minute of screen time playing Statham's character's co-worker, Anne Heche is almost unrecognizable playing a waitress, Sofia Vergara does the whole damsel in distress thing and it's blink-or-you'll-miss-it stuff, and Hope Davis looks bewildered playing a card dealer. Are these actors/actresses friends of director Simon West? Are they gaga over Jason Statham and owe him a favor? Or are they just desperate to be in a movie (in general)? Only Stanley Tucci gets to play something memorable as a quietly creepy mafia boss. His role is sadly the lone exception.

All in all, I actually read in "Card's" wiki page that it was almost directed by Brian De Palma. That would have been interesting. We're talking the possibility of sweeping camera shots, tracking shots, and some split-screen stuff. I'm not saying De Palma totally revels in these techniques but I'm just going by his relegated style. Nevertheless, I'm gonna go with a negative but fair, two star rating via the finished product here. Movie-wise, Wild Card is a "card" that you should probably avoid turning over.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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