There’s a set formula to nearly every Jason Statham action film. The British bruiser generally plays a stoic anti-hero with a rigid code of honor and woe to anyone who attempts to violate his rules. The Transporter, The Mechanic, and Parker are good examples of the prototypical Statham vehicle. One of the rare occasions in which Statham broke from said formula was Steven Knight’s Redemption. Statham did his finest work in the somber tale of a homeless war vet, his romance with a kind-hearted nun, and an investigation into the murder of another transient. Yes, Statham laid serious beatdowns to an assortment of baddies, but the fight scenes weren’t elaborately staged and were always in service of the story.
Wild Card is an unsuccessful attempt to once again give audiences something more than a standard Statham punch-a-thon.
Wild Card is based on the 1985 novel Heat by William Goldman, the legendary scribe behind All the President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and The Princess Bride. Heat was previously adapted into a box office flop that starred Burt Reynolds and featured a revolving door of directors including Robert Altman and Dick Richards, who was punched out by Reynolds. Goldman tries his hand once more with Statham in the lead and Simon West (Con Air, The Expendables 2) in the director’s seat.
Statham is Nick Wild and he’s a more credible protagonist than Reynolds as Nick “The Mex” Escalante. Wild makes his home in the underbelly of the Vegas Strip, the parts that are tucked away from the gaudy tourist traps and glamorous suites for high rollers. Wild’s Vegas is a purgatory where ambitious travelers failed to earn the riches necessary to live out their dreams. In Wild’s case, he’s got his eye on Corsica. Unfortunately, he’s also an inveterate gambler who loses any money he earns from assorted odd jobs. Wild’s latest problems involve Holly, a former flame working as a prostitute who is beaten to a pulp by volatile gangster Danny DeMarco (Milo Ventimiglia). When Wild helps Holly exact revenge on DeMarco, it leads to problem after problem.
Wild Card won’t be highlighted anytime soon by the Las Vegas board of tourism. This is a film far from the glitzy hotels with gloomy skies and lonely nights. The supporting cast is layered with noted actors like Jason Alexander, Stanley Tucci, Anne Heche, and Sofia Vergera. These are mostly glorified cameos and it’s almost disappointing to see someone of the caliber of Hope Davis appear in a handful of scenes as a blackjack dealer. In fact, the women in Wild Card are all waitresses, hookers, and the like. On the other hand, these casting coups accentuate this version of Vegas as a depressing way station where someone can easily lose himself or herself.
This is an intriguing premise to find Jason Statham. Unfortunately, none of the filmmakers felt truly invested in making Wild Card a Sartre-esque tale of existential entrapment. Moments of melancholy are brief as the movie breaks out into a bar room brawl. Wild Card features two significant fight scenes, neither of which are particularly memorable in spite of choreography by Corey Yuen.
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Wild Card was shot in digital with the Red Epic camera. The picture quality is rich and nearly flawless with a solid color palette that runs towards grays and dark blues.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The sound is fairly straightforward until the fight scenes when levels get kicked up a notch with every body blow and broken piece of furniture.
The Blu-ray includes an audio commentary with director Simon West, who discusses how the story changed from Goldman’s original screenplay.
Script Vignette (5:17) is a brief featurette with everyone chiming in on William Goldman.
Original Sin: Las Vegas and the Characters of Wild Card (16:26) is a behind-the-scenes featurette about the main characters.
Film Value: 5
Wild Card was quickly shuffled off into obscurity following a limited theatrical run. This is a film confused about its own existence. It’s one that’s not quite a drama and not quite an action flick. Recommended only for die-hard Statham-ites.