Starring: Jason Statham, Michael Angarano, Milo Ventimiglia, Hope Davis, Dominic Garcia-Laredo, Stanley Tucci
Rated R for Strong Violence, Language and Some Sexuality/Nudity
One of the most interesting people in Hollywood is Jason Statham. Or at least I think so. A professional diver turned black market salesman turned model turned actor, he certainly has the pedigree to back that statement up. In addition to having the presence and physique to pull off an action hero role, he has quite a bit of acting talent. Not in the way of say, Daniel Day-Lewis, but in his own way he has demonstrated a surprising amount of versatility. Statham knows himself so well that he can use his screen image in a number of ways: he can play it straight ("The Bank Job"), parody it ("Crank") or comment on it ("Redemption"). Few people go to a Jason Statham movie to see him do anything else but kick ass and toss out one liners, which is a shame because movies like "Redemption" or "Wild Card" contain some of his best work. They're just as violent, but they do so with a purpose. In these movies, his fighting skills are more than a curse than anything.
Nick Wild (Statham) calls himself a "security consultant," but in reality he's an enforcer/bodyguard. Basically, when you're in danger or wanting revenge, Nick's who you call. He hates his life in Las Vegas and dreams of making enough money to leave town and sail on the Mediterranean. But when he makes enough money to do so, he always tries for that one "risk it all" bet that would set him for life and he loses. However, his two newest clients, a rich kid from out of town named Cyrus Kinnick (Michael Angarano), and an old friend named Holly (Garcia-Laredo) who was viciously raped by a mobster, could jerk him out of his monotony. Or get him killed.
Statham plays Nick as someone who, despite having people who love him, hates himself. There are people around him that offer love and support, such as Cassandra (Davis), the card dealer at the Golden Nugget. But perhaps because he views himself as a failure that he won't accept it. Statham has the rare ability to use his eyes and body language to get the maximum effect. He never pushes his performance, and that's what makes us care about him.
Statham is surrounded by a gifted supporting cast of underappreciated character actors. The second most important role is given by Michael Angarano, a young actor who has been shamefully overlooked by Hollywood. His adorable "boy next door" appeal makes him ideal for the "best friend" role in a romantic comedy, but his talents show that he is capable of much more. As the wealthy client who isn't as honest or secure as he seems, Angarano shines, and is more than capable of holding his own against the star power of Statham. Heartthrob Milo Ventimiglia is surprisingly effective as a frothing at the mouth monster. His viciousness is rather startling coming from such a low-key actor. Dominic Garcia-Laredo, Hope Davis, Anne Heche, Sofia Vergara and especially Stanley Tucci are great in small roles. They may be underused, but they're all such good actors that merely seeing them on screen is a cause for delight.
Simon West does not have a great track record. Some of his credits include the lame "Con Air" and the murder mystery misfire "The General's Daughter." I'll give him credit for the cheesy fun of "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," but I'm not sure how much of that was intentionally campy. Here, he has a bonafide winner on his hands, although, like the aforementioned Indiana Jones knockoff, I'm thinking that the film's success has less to do with him than his actors or the screenplay. He overdoes the slo-mo and the film has kind of an unfocused feel. But I liked that aspect. It makes it seem less formulaic so the characters stand out.
"Wild Card" isn't a traditional action film and will probably bore those who are looking for an adrenaline cocktail. But it contains more than enough pleasures to make me encourage you to give it a chance.