Movie Review: Wild Card (2015)

March 31, 2015 in Movie Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

Wild-Card

Wild Card is a really unusual film starring action superstar Jason Statham, undoubtedly one of the busiest men in Hollywood. Directed by Simon West, who has some notable credits on his resume including Con Air and The Expendables 2, it’s actually a remake of the 1986 adaptation of the same name starring Burt Reynolds and based on the novel Heat by William Goldman.

Statham plays Nick Wild, a super lethal dude who earns money by doing odd jobs around Las Vegas. We learn early on that he’s a reasonable guy who doesn’t like to rip off his clients and likes to help people out in a no-nonsense way. When a good friend of his (Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Andy Garcia’s real-life daughter) is brutalized by three thugs — led by Milo Ventimiglia (remember him from the TV series Heroes?) — Nick reluctantly agrees to help seek revenge.

So far so good, except that the film then goes off on a completely unexpected tangent, where we discover that Nick is also a gambling addict who has serious trouble knowing when to call it quits. From here, Wild Card turns into a weird gambling movie for a while , which is OK, but then his actions against the thugs come back to haunt him and the film flips into something else again. In some ways, Wild Card is a — pardon the pun — a wild collection of set pieces, each of which works effectively on its own but doesn’t quite come together as a complete motion picture.

The action sequences are very good, with an impressive visual flair that utilizes slow motion and bone-crunching sound effects that almost make you feel the pain. Here is where Statham is at his absolute best, and to his credit he absolutely milks his charisma and knowledge of on-screen fighting to their fullest.

His acting is obviously not as good, which is probably why West decided to pair him with some outstanding performers. Ventimiglia, who has faded since Heroes turned to shit (though I hear it’s coming back without him), is actually excellent as a buffed up, narcissistic douche. The great Stanley Tucci makes an appearance as a crime lord of sorts, while other big names landing extended cameos include Jason “Costanza” Alexander, Hope Davis, Anne Heche and Sofia Vergara.

Wild Card is not great — it’s too all over the place to be anything close to that — but there are aspects of it I enjoyed, such as the action and some of the dialogue. I was quite stunned to discover that it was made for a budget of US$30 million, which feels excessive considering what I saw on screen, though I was even more astonished to learn that it made just US$1.6 million at the box office, which is far too low for what it deserves. While you won’t miss much by skipping this at the cinema, catching it on DVD won’t be the worst decision you could make.

3 stars out of 5

Movie Review: White Bird in a Blizzard (2014)

March 31, 2015 in Movie Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

poster-for-white-bird-in-a-blizzard

There was something about White Bird in a Blizzard that drew me to it right from the beginning. Perhaps it’s the typically brilliant Shailene Woodley, who plays a teenager trying to come to terms with her mother’s sudden disappearance. Perhaps it’s the sultry Eva Green, who delivers a wickedly delicious performance as Woodley’s mother in extended flashbacks and dream sequences. Or maybe it’s just the overall feel crafted by writer and director Gregg Araki, who adapted the screenplay from the novel of the same name by Laura Kasischke. Whatever it is, White Bird in a Blizzard is a strange experience — not exactly satisfying, but definitely captivating.

Part mystery-thriller, part suburban drama, part coming-of-age/sexual awakening, White Bird in a Blizzard is set in 1988, when 17-year-old Kat Connors (Woodley) returns home one day to discover that her mother Eve (Green) has disappeared without a trace, leaving her wimpy father Brock (Christopher Meloni) in a depressed daze.

Eve had been acting increasingly bizarrely leading up to her disappearance, clearly unhappy with her marriage and life, and perhaps even jealous of her daughter’s blossoming sexuality and new dim-witted boyfriend Phil (Shiloh Fernandez). Did Eve simply run off to start a new life, why did someone kill her? And why does Phil seem to be hiding something? To make things more complicated, Kat begins to develop an interest in the hot detective (Thomas Jane) investigating her mother’s case.

I’m not usually into suburban dramas per se, though this one had a quirky, slightly surreal edge to it that made it different and interesting. It reminded me a little of that dreamy 80s TV show, Twin Peaks, where everything and everyone’s just a little off, and the mood is darkly comedic but also uncomfortable.

Stories like this have been done many times before, but never quite like this. Woodley is wonderful as always, even though her character might not be entirely likable or convincing. Eva Green is so funny in this. From her snappy weirdness to the death stares she gives to Meloni, Green had me smirking and giggling despite understanding the genuine sadness she must feel from her uneventful existence.

While it’s not a superior drama, mystery- thriller, comedy or coming-of-age film, White Bird in a Blizzard is a fleetingly enjoyable experience. You might not fully believe in it or its characters, but you’ll have a hard time not feeling compelled to keep watching.

3.5 stars out of 5