When a Las Vegas bodyguard with lethal skills and a gambling problem gets in trouble with the mob, he has one last play…and it’s all or nothing.
I have seen every single Jason Statham film to date. His back-catalogue features some truly memorable films; Look back to Crank, Snatch, Mean Machine, Lock Stock and his Transporter trilogy where you will find him oiling himself up, beating up dudes with his hose and taking on a load of men at once in a factory (ahem), and you will be entertained for the entire duration of his time on screen.
He has become somewhat of a cult icon for his straight-talking, stereotypical English geezer accent, and comedic one-liners, while simultaneously possessing the ability to get out of any situation and batter everyone in sight. However, more recently, the films have simply not clicked. War, The Mechanic, Parker, Death Race, Revolver, Killer Elite etc… all distinctly awful in their own right, and now Wild Card can join that list. They all feature what we expect from Statham, so why is it that they are so bad? If you don’t take them too seriously, many of them become b-movie good, but Wild Card firmly belongs in the bad pile.
What happens to the scripts Statham rejects? To his credit, no matter how bad the film, you cannot think of anyone doing a better job. Who else can fit into that suave, “fackin Lardarn” caricature as well as he can? It won’t be Danny Dyer. Considering how many films Statham churns out, I wonder if in a room in his house he has a giant pile of rejected scripts, each more ridiculous than the last, and will never see the light of day until someone with lower standards comes along. Why won’t he just reject them?
In Wild Card, he plays a recovering gambling addict / bodyguard, and is a remake of the poorly received 1986 film Heat (not to be confused with the 1995 film of the same name, which is excellent). It is far from original, the script is anything but strong and yet he still did it. Look at Death Race, another remake of a film that was initially poorly received. Jason Statham plays a Nascar Driver, framed for his wife’s murder to drive around a prison in order to secure his freedom. In Parker he takes part in a jewellery robbery opposite Jennifer Lopez. In War, Statham plays an FBI agent out to seek vengeance for the hitman who killed Jet-Li’s family ending with an awful twist. These all sound ridiculously poor, and they are – so there must come a point where you say enough is enough? I by no means am saying that he shouldn’t do them, but it’s quality not quantity.
Another part of the problem lies within his surrounding cast. Aside from the odd strong supporting role (Stanley Tucci), the remaining cast simply form your stereotypical greasy bad guys or troubled women in need of some Statham loving. In Wild Card, Statham yet again does what he does best; he beats people up with credit cards and a spoon, makes mugs of everyone he meets and fulfils his obligation of simply being ‘Stath’.
People haven’t fallen out of love with action films – no matter how terrible they are audiences keep on paying to watch Liam Neeson mumble and fight his way through a variety of situations. In Wild Card the action is exactly as you would expect; fast paced, well put together, creative, violent, but infrequent. A possible 2 or 3 fight scenes in total, slotted between uninteresting dialogue about an uninteresting, predictable plot.
These scenes of action would be all well and good, if the drama in-between were able to sustain my interest. But here lies the basic problem of many Statham’s choice of films: they’re just not that good. If you want to make an action film, make an action film. If you want to make something dramatic and interesting, actually make it dramatic and interesting. If you want to make both, make both but ensure it’s consistent.
Wild Card really isn’t really anything, but tries to be everything.