Wild Card (2015)
I’m not what you would call a fan of Jason Statham, I’ve always felt that the highlight of his career for me will always be his second movie ‘Snatch’ (2000) a film I don’t particularly like; but am willing to jump to the defence of, solely based upon Statham’s performance, he has a certain cheeky charm that you can only really find in the English. Admittedly it helps that he had some good material to work with, but I don’t see anybody else being able to pull that same role off with such aplomb.
Since those early days he’s set himself up as the new Hollywood hard man, something his ‘Snatch’ co-star Vinnie Jones would like to have achieved but ended up getting bogged down through repeated typecasting as pretty reprehensible individuals, one particular low point being his character McStarly in ‘The Condemned’ (2007) or maybe I’m just to sensitive.
Statham on the other hand seems to have gone in the opposite direction and cornered the market on playing lovable hard men, I didn’t get to see Parker (2013) but it’s described on IMDB as being about ‘a thief with a unique code of ethics, where he won’t steal from the poor or hurt the innocent’ This is quite a departure from the cold methodical criminal we find in the Richard Stark penned Source Material, and the two previous film adaptations; 1967’s ‘Point Blank’ and the terrible ‘Payback’ (1999). However this shows a definite trend in the way a production is adapted to suit Statham and the character type he’s cultivated, ‘Wild Card’ is no different. In ‘Wild Card’ Statham plays Nick Wild an Ex-Military man, Las Vegas Chaperone for hire, and doer of favours, Who Finds himself helping a young woman get revenge on a rapist gangster and all the subsequent trouble that comes with this.
I mentioned Parker because that character was born in the Crucible of American Pulp fiction, the progenitor for film noir and therefore the great grandfather of ‘Wild Card’ admittedly ‘Wild Card’ is not essentially a Neo-Noir but I would say that it’s as dammed near close enough, to be considered as such. It just falters at the last hurdle by refusing to fully grasp the cold misanthropic world view of a fully fledged Noir.
The main elements are there though, the lighting, the corruption, and to some extent the moral darkness, however once the original evil deed is done the villains become nothing more than comic foils, humorous punching bags for Statham to lamp for our cinematic pleasure, and for a connoisseur of action films the three fight scenes are a joy, suitably stylish and visceral and placed at just the right time to keep the pace moving and break up the character building. However for all this action and fistycuffery ‘Wild Cards’ weakness is that there is no real feeling of threat there, not once did I worry for Wild. So then the experience of watching ‘wild Card’ becomes much like playing a video game, in that you know that by the end of the experience; you will win and all will be well.
This feeling is not only evident in the fight scenes, and the threats from the gangsters, we also see it in Wilds personal life. There’s a particular scene when we learn of wilds gambling addiction seemingly against the odds the earns half a million Dollars at Black Jack, this is his dream he talks about buying 5 years, 5 years to sail around Corsica; 5 years where he will be away from the seedy hell hole that is Vegas, a place that he has suddenly found himself in desperate need to leave because of the gangsters that are looking to get revenge on him. Yet at the last minuet just before he cashes in his chips he goes back to the tables, and inevitably looses it all. However watching this play out I knew he was going to loose it all; it’s cliché, and this cliché led to the inherent feeling that it doesn’t matter, because come the conclusion he will have enough to retire: somehow. One nice touch that takes place after this is a character mentions to Wild that he heard he was up half a million dollars then lost it, only to continue to remark about him being two hundred thousand up in his casino only a month ago. It’s a subtle line mentioned in passing but it builds a lot of character around Wild without pushing it into your face. There are other instances of this happening in the film; these soft touches of discrete dialogue are an excellent example of good writing.
Despite the predictability, and the clichés ‘Wild Card’ is not a bad film, it’s by no means a good film either, but it’s definitely an enjoyable experience. Statham plays Wild well, he brings a likeable charm to a man who seems to want to be the complete hard boiled ‘the world can go to hell’ tough guy but doesn’t quite have the heart to do it. So much so that I actually feel that he was even more of a sympathetic character than Holly the girl who the gangsters rape, she badgers and bullies Wild into getting revenge for her despite the fact that she knows it will put him in danger. She essentially plays the role of the Femme Fatale, a destructive seductive woman who causes the fall down of the men around her. It seemed an odd choice to me, for them to portray her this way, I imagine that they wanted her to be a strong female character despite her ordeal, and I agree the woman as a victim role is played out and boring. However I feel they could have made her a little more likable.
The location gives the director the freedom to play around with colours in the lighting something I’ve noticed an increase of recently, my personal avocation for the style adopted by Mario Bava and Argento are well known and this is a welcome sight. Personally I feel that rather than a cinema release the world built up in this movie would have been perfect for a series of high end TV movies; it’s the perfect vehicle for a continuing series, and as such I felt like I wanted more, which is pretty good grounds to base a recommendation on.