Rated: R for strong violence, language and some sexuality/nudity. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: January 30, 2015 Released by: Lions Gate Films
Jason Statham's latest reteaming with helmer Simon West (more efficient in Con Air and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) isn't as watchable or interesting as their previous one, The Mechanic. It involves two genres, the buddy picture and revenge drama noir with a touch of the introspective and three notable action sequences. Maybe outdone while not protracted by its dabbling in the gambling milieu where blackjack is the protagonist's table game of choice.
Wild Card has acclaimed scenarist William Goldman (at 83 whose credits include Marathon Man, Misery and A Few Good Men to name three) unsuccessfully refashioning his novel "Heat" with nary any original panache which was a 1986 Burt Reynolds Sin City-based starrer about a soldier-of-fortune bodyguard and "chaperone" involved with the mob aspiring to spend the rest of his life in Venice.
Here, Statham's Nick Escalante or Nick Wild security professional (sans a firearm but second to none with a butter knife and his fists when not enjoying his vodka or the healthier grapefruit juice) getting roughed up early on may indicate perhaps a more inviting hard-edged fantasy thriller. Alas, Goldman's attempt to use the actor's better attributes from Death Race or better yet, The Transporter doesn't really take hold. Even less so than with Reynolds and co-stars like Karen Young, Howard Hesseman, and Joseph Mascolo.
An abused, beaten woman (Dominik Garcia-Lorido of City Island) hurled from a vehicle outside an emergency room at the behest of a ruffian (Milo Ventimiglia) looks for more than a helping hand from Nick. Meanwhile, there's Michael Angarano's rather nerdy Cyrus Kinnick needs a sound valor makeover especially when being disconcerted by the sight of a sign on the back of an aging gentleman (that's a variant on the kind of bullying that still probably occurs outside classrooms).
Hong Kong choreographer Corey Yuen is Statham's favorite in the combative scenes which don't have the kind of vitality as Cyrus lacks the credulity to become a palatable sidekick when watching Wild take on multiple hoodlums. On the distaff side, there's Anne Heche briefly as a waitress, Sofia Vergara as the typical voluptuous inamorata, but best being Hope Davis's croupier Cassandra, not looking to capitalize like the typical dealer in substantial wagering. Corsica's beauty is all too shortly rendered by Shelly Johnson's lensing where Nick could realize his dream utopia if comes up with seven figures.
West and Goldman (who hasn't produced a screenplay in almost a dozen years) can't do much with the standard issue approach despite having Statham in better company (behind and in front of the camera) than of late and really aren't a good fit given the former's pedigree. But, a tale with some soul-searching is more enervating than propulsive as a marginalized "Card" is hardly a wild, if entertaining theatrical, even ancillary draw.