"Wild Card" is a typical Hollywood potboiler based on William Goldman's 1985 novel "Heat".
It is a mildly glamorous portrait of Nicholas Wild (Jason Statham), a fearless man with an irrational personality trait. He is also known as Nick.
A fisticuff expert, living in the underbelly of sin-city Las Vegas, Nick is a freelance security consultant. He is a sucker for sob stories and gets equally drawn to the gambling table.
His ultimate goal in life is to collect $500,000 and move away to Italy -- to be far away from the rut that he is living in.
The narration rolls off establishing Nick's personality and gradually focuses on how; his gambling habit and his soft heart get in the way of his goal.
It is when his former girlfriend Holly, after being raped and brutally abused, pleads to him -- "I want my revenge Nicky" -- that he goes into a guilt trip and agrees to identify the culprits.
On figuring out the brute as Danny DeMarco, the son of a powerful crime lord, Nick feels compelled to help Holly. He feels instigated when his well-wisher tells him to stay away from the perpetrators to save his own life. After all he loves challenges, the riskier the better.
After delivering justice to Holly, Nick comes across a fortune that could realise his dreams. But then his impulsive instinct grinds him back into the roller-coaster. He is then bailed out by his one-time client a computer geek Cyrus Kinnick who had approached him to be his bodyguard. But in reality, Cyrus needed Nick to help him, "kill the fear" in him.
While this narration sounds meaningful, director Simon West's film, based on Goldman's screenplay, is chaotic and disappointing. Its racy plot with formulaic crime thriller tropes that consists of; buzzing casinos, seedy crime lords, shady hotels and desperate hustlers is a jigsaw puzzle that settles after the prolonged first act that meanders between two action scenes.
Also, the characters are not well rounded especially Cyrus's. Though he is a loveable character, his presence is jarring and noncontextual.
The dialogues are crisp and packed with snappy retorts spoken in an unconventionally delightful manner that makes you chuckle. But those are few and far between.
On the performance front, Jason Statham as the swift Nick flexing his muscles with agility is convincing. He is ably supported by fine actors like; Michael Angarano as Cyrus Kinnick with his goofy demeanour and gait, Miloo Ventimiglia as the sleazy Danny DeMarco, Dominik Garcia-Lorido as the battered and the revenge seeking Holly and Stanley Tucci as Baby, the mafia boss in Las Vegas.
Visually, cinematographer Shelly Johnson captures the action and drama with fine precision and West has used some dynamic metaphors that standout, especially in the scene that inter cuts Holly's narration of the abuse she had to go through.
These frames are brilliantly layered by editors Padriac McKinley and Thomas J. Nordberg. Their fine razor-sharp edits are worth a mention. And this is further evident in the fine swift action sequences, choreographed by Cory Yuen.
Overall, "Wild Card" is bound to appeal to those who are fond of neo-noir crime films.