Sunday, November 29, 2015

Movie review - "Wild Card" (2015) **

One of the things I like about Jason Statham is he's always trying to push himself - taking a small part in Collateral, for instance, so he can work with Michael Mann; attempting comedy in Spy; trying to revive Westlake's "Parker" series. Here he has turned producer and optioned an old William Goldman script, based on his novel Edged Weapons, also known as Heat - the title under which it was filmed in 1986. The movie wasn't particularly good, with a troublesome shoot, and I always thought it was a shame a novel I enjoyed a lot didn't get better treatment.

But you know something? After watching this faithful adaptation - which from my (brief) research seems to have loyally shot Goldman's old 1980s script, with a few tweaks - I'm not sure it was that great, at least not as directed by Simon West. It's a character piece with action films, and really needed to set up Las Vegas as this major character in the piece. West's handling feels far too glossy and schmick - it's like a TV commercial Vegas. I think the really ideal director would've been someone like Robert Altman, who can really get the gambling atmosphere (and who incidentally was originally attached to the 1986 Heat).

Maybe it also needed, say, some voice over to get into the lead character's head more. Great sequences in the book - Nick taking on some hoods (a second by second description) and Nick's gambling run, aren't as effective- on film. The action scenes are very well done but tend to be over the top - there are only three of them, but they involve being Stathan so super heroic that it doesn't quite mix with the more down to earth aspects of the rest of the film.

So the piece doesn't quite work - not enough character to be a drama, not enough action to be a bang bang pic. There are some great cameos: Stanley Tucci, Hope Davis, Anne Heche. Statham isn't bad. I wish he'd gone the whole hog and gotten a drama director to do it.

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