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.