Jason Statham's Wild Card is now streaming on Amazon Prime. Based on William Goldman's novel Heat, about a Las Vegas enforcer, the book was previously adapted in 1986 starring Burt Reynolds. The updated version was originally slated to be directed by The Untouchables' Brian DePalma before Simon West (Tomb Raider, Expendables II) stepped in. Set the dingy and high ends of Las Vegas, Statham's Nick Wild is a security expert working to make enough money to retire for five years and sail around the world. He's lucky but also doesn't know when to quit as he wins and loses fortunes at the blackjack table. One night, former lover turned working girl Holly (Dominik Garcia-Lorido) gets assaulted by the cocksure, low level gangster Danny DeMarco (Milo Ventimiglia) and his goons. After getting out of the Emergency Room, Holly wants her revenge and pulls Nick into it. Of course faces get smashed and egos destroyed so Wild becomes a target leading to much mayhem and bodily harm. A cast of slightly kooky characters fills the film as Nick encounters housekeepers in the know, bartenders, card dealers, trophy wives and admirers played by the likes of Michael Angarano, Hope Davis, Stanley Tucci, Jason Alexander, Sofia Vergara and Anne Heche in mostly short appearances.
Budgeted at an estimated $30 million, West crafts an entertaining character piece with style and panache to go with a few effective punch ups. Wild's reputation has him being such a bad ass that he doesn't use guns and could kill you with an ash tray five or fifteen feet away. Composer Dario Marianelli does an excellent job with the score and songs to keep the style going while the cast of familiar faces is a nice touch. This isn't an action fest by any means but the fight scenes are well done, one using slow motion and devastating infliction of damage to a mass melee through a bar and casino. The character beats, dramatic moments and lack of a shirtless scene for the lead indicate that Statham is continuing to push himself as a likable actor and action star. Less muscled than we've seen him in the last few years, it's said that Statham stayed lean through a diet of brown rice and spinach. I didn't get into Safe or Parker much, Homefront was a nice mix of action and drama but Wild Card is Statham's best movie in years. With his last starring vehicles not kicking up much business, Wild Card was released in a handful of theaters and VOD last year. Since then, Statham has re-energized his Hollywood stock with supporting roles in comedy Spy and over the top action franchise Furious 7. A sequel to 2011's The Mechanic is due for release this year and co-stars Tommy Lee Jones, Jessica Alba and Michelle Yeoh so we'll see if the British Bruce Willy can keep action films relevant in the Marvel age.