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Competent action thriller that wants to be a drama
Wild Card has been a passion project of Jason Statham's for several years, the actor having even secured Brian De Palma for the director's chair at one point. With De Palma stepping away, Statham enlisted the competent but much less exciting Simon West with whom he'd already collaborated on The Mechanic and The Expendables 2.
West was excited to work with legendary screenwriter William Goldman again after The General's Daughter and assembled an impressive supporting cast around Statham, the likes of Stanley Tucci, Anne Heche, Jason Alexander and many more. A vastly underrated actor, Statham easily holds his own among these and gives a fine performance as Nick Wild, first played in the 1986 original by Burt Reynolds.
That picture was a notoriously troubled production that left a sour taste in William Goldman's mouth, but he obviously thought highly of his screenplay, as story-wise, Wild Card plays almost exactly like the original, beat-by-beat. However, watching the on-screen proceedings it is hard to believe this is the same man responsible for such classics as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men, The Princess Bride and so many others.
From its top notch cast to its look and pacing, Wild Card feels like it wants to a gritty drama, a moody character piece with bursts of action in the vein of Michael Mann's Collateral, a film with which it shares quite a few characteristics. Unfortunately it never quite reaches the heights of its ambitions, the film being unable to conjure up something special, unexpected, original enough to put it over the top.
That is not to say it doesn't deliver. Without saying much, the film draws you into this world easily and convincingly. The acting is very strong and the characters pretty appealing. The writing is sharp. Cinematographer Shelly Johnson gives the film a distinctive look and the editing is excellent. The score is composed by the ultra-talented Dario Marianelli. And then there's the action.
While there are only but a few of them, the action scenes, handled by Hong Kong legend and frequent Statham collaborator Cor(e)y Yuen, are incredible, exhilarating and eminently memorable. Even more to the film's credit, each one is very different, both through their visual and musical presentations.
All this makes for a perfectly serviceable film but one unfortunately stuck between two worlds. Which makes it quite a shame that Brian De Palma backed out of the project as his style would have no doubt elevated Wild Card to something pretty fascinating.
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