I understand why Jason Statham might want to expand his onscreen horizons. I don’t think he has it in him, but I get it. What I don’t get is: Why choose, for such a creative endeavor, this regressive throwback, which would have been unpleasantly backward-looking in the mid 1980s, when William Goldman published the novel it’s based on? (It was first adapted by Goldman himself for film in 1986, starring Burt Reynolds and titled Heat, and it wasn’t met with applause then, either.) Honestly, when I saw that Goldman was credited with the script here, I assumed that it must have been the same one from the 80s (which is apparently true even though someone mentions Google in passing), because there’s no way in hell he could have written something this unironically clichéd after The Princess Bride.
The Stath (The Expendables 3, Homefront), as Las Vegas “security consultant” Nick Wild, is forced to grapple with much noirish exposition about how he’s getting too old for this shit and ready to retire to Corsica (why Corsica? nobody seems to know). The noir gets the better of him: Wild (and Statham) seems like a guy who would prefer to let his muscle car do his talking for him. Among the many people who adore him in spite of the fact that there’s apparently not a lot of there there are a hooker with a heart of gold (Dominik García-Lorido: City Island), a diner waitress with a Yoda-like calm and wisdom (Anne Heche [The Other Guys, Birth]), and a casino croupier-slash-lucky charm (Hope Davis: Real Steel, Synecdoche, New York), the latter of whom we discover when Wild, out of nowhere, turns out to be a compulsive gambler because why not. There is also a gangster’s brutal son (Milo Ventimiglia: Grace of Monaco, Grown Ups 2) and a marvelous crime boss (the always sublime Stanley Tucci [The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I, Transformers: Age of Extinction], appearing in the only scene that has any life to it, because he’s in it) for Wild to contend with. That’s Vegas, baby, a place where a beat-up hooker getting tossed out of moving car in the middle of the night is just another Tuesday.
Fauxteur director Simon West — who directed not The Expendables but The Expendables 2, and not Statham vehicle The Transporter but Statham desperate-grab The Mechanic — has absolutely no sense of style, so he does things like let a Christmas song break out during a fight scene. No one knows why. We’re probably better off not knowing what goes on in West’s head anyway.