Pretty much zero (or lower due to Mickey Rourke) expectations coming into this one and while it wasn't completely horrible, it didn't really have much going for it beyond the gimmick. I've seen the Russian roulette gambling thing a couple of times in TV crime dramas and this was more or less on that level. Quite a few name name brand actors in this one which at least lent a little bit of drama wondering if they were really going to kill off all the contestants.
I give them props for trying to give a drama angle by letting you get to know several of the characters and other gamblers, but they're so thinly written that you don't really have a chance to get involved in them. Sure, Pasty Kid is sympathetic as the protagonist in over his head and, while I don't wish harm on him, I'm not particularly invested in whether he lives or not. Couple that with some fairly lame supporting cast performances (looking at you, Rourke), and they really failed to capitalize on the inherent drama of the game itself.
This movie at least did let me confirm that Michael Shannon really does suck as an actor. I've not liked him in anything he's ever been in, but he was appallingly distracting in Premium Rush. Had I have seen this first, I would have been better prepared for that. Very disappointed to see he's cast as General Zod in Man of Steel. Sure hope I'm wrong about him and they haven't squandered a pretty cool role on a complete tool of an actor.
As for Statham, this is yet another one where he at least showed up and was filmed. That's really about all there is to note about his performance. He's perfectly serviceable in his role, but brings nothing to it and is pretty much interchangeable with anyone else. On top of that, his presence was actually a detractor from what I'm sure was intended as a surprise ending. His brother (or someone, I couldn't really be bothered to keep track) gets killed in the final duel of the game and he's all distraught and runs out of there. Unfortunately, we still have 20+ minutes to go and, knowing that he has a $3mil debt to a loan shark and thanks to the Celebrity Screentime Axiom, he has to show back up again to try to get Pasty Kid's money.
The Celebrity Screentime Axiom is one of the many things that ruins most 60 minute TV crime dramas: The bigger the celebrity, the more screentime they're going to have. So when the poor raped/murdered/tortured/teased girl's dad is Someone and they're seemingly only in the first few minutes of the show, then you know they'll either be or kill the rapist/killer/torturer/bully by the end of the show. It's not a guarantee that they're the bad guy, but it's a dead lock that they'll be back for more screentime. So it goes with Statham in this one. His role seems done, but with him not dead and 30 minutes still to go, we're certain to see him again. When he shows up to get the money back from Pasty Kid, it's completely expected and anticlimactic. A big yawn and smack upside the head to the filmmakers.
Badassery Quotient - 2
Not a bit of standard Statham stuff here, but I'll give a couple of points for all the people getting shot in the head during the game and Statham at least handling a gun a couple of times during the film.
Rewatchability - No thanks
Another of those middle-of-the-road movies that I'm not sorry I watched, but see little point in watching again or recommending anyone else try. It's not horrible, it's not great, it's just sort of there. Which is the issue with a lot of Statham's movies. Perhaps that's a big part of why I gave almost all of these a miss when they hit the theaters. Just not quite enough reason to get butts in the seats.
Up next - The Expendables! I've watched it pretty recently, but won't mind doing so again with an eye towards Statham himself if I can avoid being distracted by Stallone's neck.