|'there is some evidence here of a more authorly, academic approach to the 'lone wolf' sub-genre, which attempts to lift Wild Card above close companion Jack Reacher'|
Action star Jason Statham and Action director Simon West, combine for Wild Card, which must go down as a failed experiment into what happens when two genre movers attempt to at least partially subvert the genre they move in.
Yes, Wild Card does have action (notably an excellent fight in a casino at the start of the final act, and one more battle come the finale), but it also has long, languorous, sub-philosophical scenes of Statham talking to femme fatales and considering whether the violent Las Vegas he is trying to escape may, after all, be his natural habitat. Based on screenwriter William Goldman's own novel (but with the title changed from the original Heat), there is some evidence here of a more authorly, academic approach to the 'lone wolf' sub-genre, which attempts to lift Wild Card above close companion Jack Reacher.
The blame that the experiment ultimately fails obviously rests with the creative team of Goldman and West but, more specifically, apparently with their failure to realise when they are on to a good thing and when they are heading into a blind alley. Nick Wild's (Statham) relationships, for example, are a bungled mess, beginning with wronged beauty Holly (Dominik García-Lorido) and business partner Pinky (Jason Alexander) and moving all the way through the film to flamboyant gangster Baby (Stanley Tucci - more on him later). Wild never feels like he has a connection with any of these people thanks to a lack of screentime (Pinky and Baby) or a lack of backstory (Pinky and Holly), which shows why we, and Wild, should actually care about them.
Whilst that time then is instead dedicated to Statham flying solo, being overly introspective, with a cod-psychological script, opportunities are missed to follow the good elements of Wild Card any further. Tucci, on familiar reliable form, plays his 'villain' like Liev Schreiber plays his editor in Spotlight; all calm directions and underplay. It's a brilliant change of pace and had he been given some of the lines musing on our allocated place in the universe maybe it would have been easier to pay more attention.
As it is, we rather get left in the dark on character and on plotting. Who knows why Statham is close to croupier/waitress Cassandra (Hope Davis) and what their relationship is, or why he came to be rooted to the spot in Vegas. A key scene at around the half way point makes no sense at all: is Wild a zen master detective or an idiot addict? If the problem is that he's a bit of both then no part of the film, including this bit, communicate that fact adequately. It will be difficult for many to justify the time required to partake in any potential sequel in order to find out.