This photo released by Lionsgate shows, Jason Statham, center, as Nick Wild in a scene from the film, "Wild Card." (AP Photo/Lionsgate)

This photo released by Lionsgate shows, Jason Statham, center, as Nick Wild in a scene from the film, "Wild Card." (AP Photo/Lionsgate)

Reeling it in: ‘Wild Card’ worth a roll of the dice

“Wild Card”

Lionsgate

1 hour, 32 minutes

 

My intention this week was to review the current Academy Award Best Picture front-runner, “Boyhood.” This unique film from director Richard Linklater was filmed over the course of 12 years using the same cast. The reviews are through the roof, and it looks pretty amazing. Plus, it’s been out to rent or buy for at least a month, so you’d think it would be no problem to watch it.

You’d be wrong. I’d like to take this moment to vent my frustrations about a form of technology that I’ve reluctantly embraced, but am still pretty dubious about — streaming video. (To anyone under 20 that’s like saying, “I’m just confounded by this new fangled invention. They call it a radio!”)

So I’m showing my age. I don’t care. I like being able to put a movie on my shelf, pull it down whenever I want, put in the player and I’m done. I like being able watch a movie on the big screen even more, but that’s not always an option, and more and more the studios are going straight to the streaming services. OK, fine. I’ll admit the streaming option is convenient. I open up the program and there are thousands of options all neatly organized and easily accessible. I don’t have to get in the car, I don’t have to wander up and down any aisles, I just click a button and boom! I’m watching “Boyhood.”

Or not. Because that’s the thing. If I put a DVD in a player and it doesn’t play, I can troubleshoot it. I can take out the disc, breathe on it, rub it on my shirt. I can open the player, blow air into the casing, fiddle with the plug. I can even change the batteries in the remote. All this may or may not work, but at least I feel like I’m doing something.

If a streaming movie won’t play all I can do is sit dumbly watching that stupid wheel spin around on the screen, thinking, “Any moment now. Here it comes. Aaaaaand now!” Beyond unplugging and replugging the router, there’s not a lot you can do if your movie won’t play. When I pressed the button for “Boyhood,” the wheel spun for a while and then this message appeared: “Your movie will be ready to play in 3 hours and 48 minutes.”

Excuse me? I can guarantee if I had the disc it wouldn’t take 3 hours and 48 minutes to take it out of the box and put it into the machine. This is why I own over 500 movies, many of which my wife repeatedly reminds me, “You’re never going to watch that again. Why do we have it?” The answer: “You never know. And if I do decide to watch it again, I sure as heck won’t have to wait!”

Ironically, the movie I ended up watching was also a streamer, but maybe just not one as popular as “Boyhood,” considering that it actually played. “Wild Card” is the latest Jason Statham action flick, a characteristic that doesn’t necessarily bode well. Statham is a good actor, but he signs on to some truly terrible movies.

What interested me is that “Wild Card” is based on the 1986 Burt Reynolds film, “Heat,” written by Oscar-winner William Goldman (think “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Princess Bride”). “Heat” wasn’t a particularly good movie, or so I hear, but what was interesting was that the production opted not to update or retool the screenplay for this 2014 version, but rather to shoot the existing script as written. Action movies today are generally large productions with big splashy set-pieces. Back in the 80s, though, a lot of this genre were smaller, more intimate. Not every movie had to be “The Fast and the Furious.” Sure, there were your “Lethal Weapons” and your “Terminators” but even a big Arnold Swarzenegger movie like “Predator” is basically a few guys tramping around the jungle looking for a monster they hardly ever show. So I was intrigued to see how the style feels in today’s action climate.

“Wild Card” is pretty good, actually, though not great. Statham really pours it on, trying to give a real performance in a movie that doesn’t necessarily require one, though his efforts are welcome. He plays Nick, a bitter tough guy working as a body guard for hire for paranoid rich people in Las Vegas.

It’s constantly insinuated that he’s as tough as they come, but we are never offered much in the way of a backstory. All we really know is that he’s been unable to leave Vegas for one reason or another. When a friend is brutally assaulted by a mob punk, Nick does everything he can to not get involved, but you have to know when you’re this character, staying out of it just isn’t in the cards. When he finally does take action, it will bring his world crashing down around him, bringing his decision to stay or go to a head.

Unlike most Statham movies, “Wild Card” isn’t wall-to-wall beatings. There are a few fight scenes, but this is a somewhat slower burn than audiences today may be used to. I, for one, was glad — the smaller body count making the violence that much more impactful. There is one scene of potential violence where I actually found myself covering my eyes, though I won’t say more than that.

Peppered with small cameos from such varied talents as Jason Alexander, Stanley Tucci and Sofia Vergara, “Wild Card” offers good performances and good action, though does stumble a little at the end. Oh well, I enjoyed it, and more importantly, I was actually able to watch it.

Grade: B

“Wild Card” is rated R for violence, some of it sexual, and pervasive language.

 

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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