Lately I’ve been getting requests for advice from people who have turned to writing as a way to pass the time during lockdown. I’m all for it and have been responding, but found myself offering the same pointers over and over, so instead of cutting and pasting the same answer, I made a video… wtach it HERE!
If angst is your thing, the new Jason Statham remake of the 1986 Burt Reynolds’ thriller “Heat,” may be for you. Sure, he also kills a man with a spoon, but unlike other fast-moving movies in Statham’s repertoire, here most the action takes place in his head, behind dead eyes.
Statham is Nick Wild, an Elmore Leonard-esque character working as a bodyguard/thug-for-hire in Las Vegas. He is the trademarked Statham “troubled loner” character, a man with a murky past who “doesn’t rest his head on the same pillow twice.” When his friend, call girl Holly (Dominik García-Lorido) is attacked by some very bad people at the Golden Nugget—“Tough place,” says Nick, “even the showgirls can rip a phonebook in half.”—and left for dead Nick is drawn into a dangerous game of revenge. Job done he may finally be able to leave Vegas for good, but bad luck and bad guys just might get in the way.
“Wild Card” could easily have been retitled “The Art of the Montage.” Take out the slow motion, the montages and the slow motion montages and you’d be looking at a twenty minute running time. Director Simon West, who worked with Statham on “The Expendables 2” and “The Mechanic,” never met a pastiche he didn’t love.
They slow down the action, although to be fair, there isn’t much action to hold back. This is a study of obsession, of gambling, of putting it all on the line, but most of all it is a study of Statham making angsty faces while ruminating on the “creeping virus” of Las Vegas. He’s broody and only pushed into action a couple of times during the 92 minute running time. In those scenes we get what we pay for—Statham getting medieval on bad guys—the rest of the time we get an insider’s up-close-and-personal look at what Statham looks like when he’s sleepy.
“Wild Card” could have been an interesting look at the downside of Las Vegas life. Or it could have been a kick-butt action movie. As it is, it is neither.
“Life of Crime” is slickly made but blandish adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel “The Switch.” As usual Leonard’s bad guys are more interesting than the straights. The trick here is figuring out who the bad guys are.
Jennifer Aniston is Mickey, the trophy wife of the abusive and corrupt Frank Dawson. Outwardly they have the perfect marriage, but at home trouble is brewing. At home, at least when Frank isn’t off doing “business” at his hideaway in the Bahamas, tending to his girlfriend Melanie (Isla Fisher) and off shore bank accounts.
When two low-rent criminals, Louis (John Hawkes) and Ordell (Yasiin Bey, the artist formerly known as Mos Def) kidnap Mickey they hadn’t counted on Frank using their plan as a quickie divorce. No ransom, no alimony. Cue the double crosses and intrigue.
The major selling point here is the dialogue. Leonard was a master of the backroom criminal dialogue and here they have the good sense to keep most of his snappy words intact. Hawkes and Bey are particularly adept at delivering the goods, mouthing the words as if they were Leonard’s illegitimate children. Robbins is convincing as the sleazy land developer and Fisher is a femme fatale in the making. The weak link is Aniston, who seems like she might have calibrated her performance for the similarly plotted “Ruthless People” rather than a down-and-dirty crime drama.
Like many of Leonard’s stories “Life of Crime” tends to favor the characters who live on the down low. Hawkes and Bey—despite their association with a neo-Nazi (Mark Boone Jr.)—are treated as the sensitive heroes of the piece, while everyone else is playing some sort of game. It makes for interesting character dynamics but doesn’t sit as well here as it did in “Get Shorty” or “Out of Sight.”