WILD CARD REVIEW

wildcard-poster

I’m losing faith in the Stath.

Well, in his movie choices anyway.

So what’s it all about, san? When a Las Vegas bodyguard (The Stath) with lethal skills and a gambling problem gets in trouble with the mob, he has one last play . . . and it’s all or nothing.

I should have known what to expect when I saw the name Simon West pop up across the silver screen.

At his best, Con Air! One of the most iconic action movies of all time! Why didn’t he put the bunny in the box?

At his worst, Stolen. One of my worst films of 2013. Ironically both involving Nicolas Cage.

West normally has the right balance of cheese with all out action. Silly but fun. While Wild Card, on the other hand, was just terrible. My DISAPPOINTED Kevin Sorbo Hercules video doesn’t even come close to showing my frustration.

A slow opening sequence involving Stath and a little “matchmaking” hustle with the alluring Sofia Vergara (Modern Family) was silly but easy going.

For a minute, I thought it was going to be a little like Better Call Saul. They even had a similar office set up.

Jason Alexander! Good old George Costanza as a Saul Goodman type showed all the potential.

BUT oh no! All he did was introduce the Stath to Michael Angarano’s (Sky High) retarded tweenie gambler.

Leading to an uneven, badly acted and badly written film that failed on everything BUT the violence (The little that there was).

Okay, retarded was a little harsh. Angarano’s dweeby laugh and lead dialogue didn’t help me like his one-dimensional character.

Meanwhile, a more interesting subplot seemed to be emerging as we see Dominik Garcia-Lorrido’s call girl battered, bludgeoned and dumped outside a hospital.

However, before we get to find out the who, why and how? We have to drudge through mindless exposition and pointless sweeping night shots of the Stath driving around Las Vegas.

The cinematography was outstanding. I must commend Shelly Johnson for making this mess worth looking at.

But it didn’t stop me picking at the poor script. Written by William Goldman. A two time Oscar winning screenwriter penned this? (All The President’s Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)

Anne Heche and Hope Davis. Two talented actresses reduced to nothingy supporting roles.

Heche as a waitress. Purpose? To serve the Stath some lemonade and give him a break from talking to himself.

Davis as a card dealer. Purpose? To remind us that the Stath gambles. Go figure. I could tell that by the fact he was gambling!

And if that wasn’t bad enough, I was fed up with listening to Angarano’s insecure rich boy desperately seeking a friend.

However, we finally get back to Garcia-Lorrido. She seems to have inherited her actor father’s deadpan drawl. Yep, lifeless and dull.

She tried to pull off the femme fatale vibe but she didn’t have the conviction.

In between Stath’s babysitting subplot, we have a little vengeance ploy as his services are required to teach a harsh lesson to a deluded mafia monster.

Well, I say monster. More like moper.

Peter Petrelli? What happened? Milo Ventimiglia was such a whiney little nob. I couldn’t stand him. He played the douchebag mafioso well but he was just so irritating and pathetic.

I could understand him being a quivering whimp in one scene as the Stath and Garcia-Lorido dispense some justice with his manhood and some garden shears but otherwise, he lacked the conviction to be taken seriously as a scumbag.

It was such a shame considering the back story that Lorrido built up around him. The detail on what he did to her was gritty and gruesome. And then we see him and he’s an absolute plonker.

The film kept changing in tone and flitting about. Ridiculously silly one moment, brooding and menacing the next. I wasn’t sure what it was trying to be. It failed anyway.

I think the only reprieve for this film was the fight sequences. There weren’t enough but when the Stath did kick off, it was brutal, intense and brilliantly choreographed.

One particular highlight involving Stath using a knife to jam up a hitman’s firing pin.

To be honest, Stath deals with Ventimiglia too easily and we are left watching him gamble his life away.

The gambling scene was ruthless, tense and probably the most suspenseful sequence in the whole film.

However, I expected more of this in the horrendous remake that was The Gambler.

I’m sure Goldman was trying to make Wild Card a philosophical journey of one man’s decent but it was too pretentious, too hammy and just plain terrible.

I mean Stanley Tucci? What was the point of his character?

Donning another bad wig and smirking. With a look that said; “Am I really in this? Is this all they need me for?” A mediator for the mob who didn’t do any proper mediating and was only in the film for two minutes.

Easy money for the Tuc.

The frantic (and forced) fiery finale was manic, violent and everything I expected for the other 90-odd minutes.

Stath does his best to make it watchable and nearly pulls it off. BUT he gambled on the wrong project.

They didn’t even explain his knack for disposing of baddies by flicking cards.

I’m not even going to get into the fact that it’s set during Christmas and was released in March.

Too many questions, not enough action, story or character to keep me quiet, engaged or caring.

1.5/5

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THE GAMBLER REVIEW

The-Gambler-2014

The odds on me telling you to watch this pretentious yawnfest are virtually zilch.

Harsh? Maybe. But I have never been so bored and disappointed with a film in some time.

Mark Wahlberg and Rupert Wyatt take on the remake of the cult Caan crime caper and, to be honest, by the end I couldn’t help wondering why?

So what’s it all about? Lit professor and gambler Jim Bennett’s (Wahlberg) debt causes him to borrow money from his mother (Jessica Lange) and a loan shark (Michael Kenneth Williams).

Further complicating his situation is his relationship with one of his students (Brie Larson). Will Bennett risk his life for a second chance?

Now I will be honest. I haven’t seen the original. But I certainly want to now. Surely if the purpose of a remake is to be a re-imagining or an improvement on the original, than it must be terrible, right? Hmmm . . .

The opening 15-20 minutes was slow-burning but seemed to set everything in motion. The moments in which Wahlberg’s Bennett gambles is tense and utterly bonkers.

Showing how easy it is to fall into an addiction. The adrenaline rush. The complete disregard. Clocking up debts left, right and centre.

However these are only moments. In between these tense tidbits, we are left with uninteresting characters, a lot of mindless exposition and barely any action or suspense that the film seemed to promise.

Wahlberg certainly did his best but his character was such a deluded self-deprecating simpleton that there was only ever going to be two outcomes.

Two outcomes that were predictable and made the whole thing a waste of time.

Larson (21 Jump Street) and Wahlberg managed to convey a little chemistry but Bennett was such an egotistical and unlikeable character that you felt Larson’s Amy was getting what she deserved for being such a silly little girl.

Jessica Lange (American Horror Story) was good as Bennett’s mother but there wasn’t enough of her. Her fiery interactions with her son made things a little bit more interesting but were either skipped over so quickly or left open that it made it all rather flat.

It would have been nice to have had a little more insight into their fractious relationship. Not little arguments, pointless flashbacks and a strange opening scene with a cathartic cameo from George Kennedy.

What infuriated me was how many opportunities Bennett had to get out of his mess but continued to cause hassle, borrow money and gamble it away. I was thinking, “You’re getting what you deserve, mate”.

Wyatt certainly captures the gruelling stakes of gambling with a man so frustrated with life that he is on this nihilistic path BUT it could have been done a lot better and a good portion shorter.

The classroom scenes felt one big rant at life. Philosophical meanderings that I’m sure were supposed to come of clever and thought provoking just came off pretentious, overlong and pointless.

If it was supposed to show the yearning desire between Larson and Marky Mark, it didn’t. If it was supposed to reveal more of Bennett’s character, it did a little.

Only that he is a plonker.

A waste of a talented supporting cast. You had a menacing (but incredibly fat and bald) John Goodman and Michael Kenneth (Omar from The Wire/Chalky White from Boardwalk Empire) at the helm of two very angry looking gangs.

All that supposedly cryptic, suspenseful and threatening dialogue leading to . . .

More talking and more pointless meetings.

Don’t get me wrong, Williams and Goodman do their utmost to make as memorable a mark as they can with the material. Goodman was particularly impressive in the small part he had.

The last 20 minutes finally got things going. Wahlberg’s moronic wheeling and dealing with the loan sharks all building up to one final roll of the dice. It was tense and I thought, “Finally! Here we go!”

BUT alas, it was done all too quickly, predictably and the final moments were unbelievably corny.

To be honest, one revelation certainly made one of Wahlberg’s rants not complete jibberish.

Greig Fraser’s cinematography certainly made this droll affair look stylish. BUT I was disappointed by Wyatt after he successfully managed to rework a franchise that I didn’t want rebooting (Rise of The Planet of the Apes).

I wanted a broody, stylish cryptic crime caper with one man battling his addiction.

To an extent, you do. But it certainly isn’t what you want or hope for. I’d gamble my chip on something else.

I would recommend to people who are still interested; just watch the trailer. Two minutes tells you everything and it will save you two hours of pretentious, feeble waffle that amounts to nothing.

Unfortunately, Marky Mark I didn’t pick up any good vibrations this time around.

2 (just)/5