Overall Grade: (C+)
There was a nice framework to the story-line, as well as a handful of well shot action-sequences, but a with a collection of thin characters, including the lead, some of the connection this film attempted to deliver was not received.
Burnout Las Vegas bodyguard Nick Wild (Statham) has over the years developed a strong set of skills that make him excellent in his line of work. During his time working in ‘Sin City’ he has also developed a strong gambling problem. When he reluctantly does a favor for a friend he knowingly finds himself the target of the mob. With time running short he will have to raise the stakes and hope luck is on his side as he makes one last stand to win enough money to leave the city behind him for good.
I’m always a fan of a Jason Statham movie, and as his selection of scripts has slowly began to improve over the years, so has the level of expectation for the entertainment of his films. With a strong billed cast and a trailer that makes this one look more like a crime-drama, I still had no doubt there would be some good fight-sequences. So lets start there since in the end these actions-sequences were the best thing about this slightly above average action film with a crime-drama twist to it.
The action was swift, violent and just choreographed enough to deliver the intended ferocity as Statham strategically works his was through sizable thugs. The camerawork during the sequences is excellent and director Simon West was able to take advantage of the often overdone slow-motion techniques by using them to perfection. Statham takes out his enemies with ashtrays, credit-cards, serving trays, slot machines as well as a group of thugs with a spoon and butter spreader, and the result is nothing short of adrenaline pumping action.
The story-line was relatively intriguing for certain segments, somewhat dull for others. Early on Statham is left with a difficult decision, in doing a favor for his friend and knowing the repercussions of doing so his decision pushes the script into the second act, after a somewhat slow intro. There was a decent amount of framework to the story and the main plot of the film and from a snapshot perspective it would look to result in an intriguing film. It came close to delivering the serious tone it intended but being filled by a cast of characters with no backdrop, made for a lack of care or connection to their outcome thus a rather formulaic tone.
The script was too focused on story and not nearly enough on the creation of the characters filling it. Other than Statham who was the lead and a couple of side characters in his unlikely new employer Cyrus (Angarano) and the pretty-boy mobster Danny (Ventimiglia) this film was filled with a collection of cameo characters played by familiar names. When you see the names credited to this one you will quickly develop a misconception for what this one will inevitably give you.
Appearances by Stanley Tucci, Jason Alexander and Sofía Vergara were all simply cameo pop-in’s and serve no strong additions to the film, other then Stanley Tucci. In his one scene he is able to deliver a great deal of charm, and smiles as he eloquently embraces the situation presented him with an ‘it’s just business mindset’ and it is odd to say but; other than the action in this film, Tucci’s small role was one of he better scenes in the entire film. But for him, as well as Alexander and Vergara, and even the small role played by Hope Davis, if you blink you may miss them.
Milo Ventimiglia was great as the pretty-boy gangster and in his most important scene he truly delivered the needed fear and horror of a man in his position. You cannot helps but chuckle and cringe as he literally feels his life slip between the blades of a pair of garden shears. As for Statham, he wasn’t horrible but he has been better, with a portrayal that showed some emotion, but nothing we haven’t seen him deliver in many other past performances, mostly reminiscent to his European based films.
Despite the credentials of writer William Goldberg, he really did not give the cast more than some cardboard characters to work with. There was no real backdrop to Statham’s character nor any depth or insight to what life had brought the Nick Wild character that made him who he was at the time. There wasn’t even a real connection made with the woman who proposes the dangerous favor of him and it is supposed to be the films catalyst. The result was a lead role that was on the generic side, and fueled by the common genre stereotypes.
The film takes you on the tour of all the bright lights Las Vegas can deliver with many stops at familiar casinos on and off the strip. While the film managed to capture the beauty and spectacle of the city the script also tries to convey the despair and depression Las Vegas can bring behind the lights and sirens of the casino floor. The keyword being ‘tries’ as in the end it all seemed like a half-hearted attempt and lacking the impact that Las Vegas has brought us in may past films.
In the end this was still a nice action film. If you walk in thinking you are going to get a fluid paced film with a hint of the 80’s action noir then you will be much more pleased with the result. Statham seemed to make the most out of the little material he had to work with and did his best to carry this one along. As the final credits began to roll I was not disappointed, but did feel the enjoyment could have been much better with only some minor additions.