Wild Card‘s most interesting facet is that it’s been written by William Goldman, who also wrote the novel, Heat, upon which it’s based. Why is this interesting? Because Goldman also wrote the screenplay for 1986’s Heat starring Burt Reynolds. So, he’s gotten to adapt his own novel to the screen twice now. You sometimes hear of directors getting to remake their own movies — most recently, Erik Van Looy got to remake Loft into The Loft for English audiences — but it’s rare that the original novelist will get to write the screenplay for his own novel twice.
The movie feels like it’s three 45-minute episodes of a TV show that have been awkwardly stitched together into a 90-minute film. Our protagonist is Nick Wild (Jason Statham), a man living in Las Vegas whom you can hire to be your bodyguard while you go gamble. In the first third of the film, he’s hired by an old flame, Holly (Dominik Garcia-Lorido), to seek revenge on a man who wronged her, Danny DeMarcho (Milo Ventimiglia). He also gets hired by Cyrus (Michael Angarano) to do his normal job.
Our second third sees him struggle with a gambling addiction. And, third, Danny DeMarco seeks revenge on our hero for the part he played in letting Holly get revenge on him. The final third is the best part, as it lets us get a Stanley Tucci cameo, and Michael Angarano also makes a guest appearance. The best action scene the film has also comes at this point. Or maybe it comes right at the end of the second portion. Who knows? These things blur together at some points, even though there are three very distinct parts.
The problem with this is that most of the film feels incredibly underdeveloped. Nick has a gambling problem and might be an alcoholic, and he hates Las Vegas and maybe himself, but he’s about the only character with any depth. Most of the other characters exist to bring out his flaws, or to be an amusing cameo. Jason Alexander, Sofía Vergara, and Max Casella all have cameos, for instance, and while they’re kind of fun, they’re also a little distracting.
So, with a thin plot that jumps around a bunch, at least the movie is a Jason Statham movie, right? It’ll at least have a lot of action? Well, not really. There’s approximately one action scene per third, which if my math is correct means that there are three in total. They’re filled with slow-motion, hand-to-hand combat, and while they’re technically sound, we know that Mr. Wild isn’t going to lose any of them. The one taking place in the casino is the silliest one, probably because it’s the longest.
Now, to be fair, there are a couple of scenes in Wild Card that almost make it worth watching. The one-scene Stanley Tucci cameo is fantastic, and a reminder that Tucci is almost always great, and often the best part of any given movie to which he lends his talents. The first “revenge” scene is also filled with tension, particularly if you are a male. I’ll let you figure out why.
Jason Statham isn’t a particularly good dramatic actor, and here he tries to look a little sad and downtrodden throughout — he dreams of escaping but knows he won’t be able to — but it mostly comes across just as him scowling a whole bunch. Too much of Wild Card has Statham sitting at a counter, or a table, just looking kind of tired and a little angry. Perhaps he is. Statham is only really great when he’s getting to punch people in the face. The cameos distract more than they add — for the most part. Michael Angarano isn’t given enough to work with in order to deliver a good performance.
Wild Card is a disappointing movie that likely won’t satisfy the rush that most Jason Statham fans are going to want from one of his movies. It’s light on the action, high on the self-brooding — and Statham is only strong at the former of those. The plot isn’t handled well, either through poor direction or a lackluster script — the latter of which would be odd, given that this is writer William Goldman’s third crack at this particular can. Wild Card isn’t worth your time, although Stanley Tucci’s cameo almost makes it so.