Guy Ritchie is a filmmaker who fascinates me, but in an unusual way. I respect Ritchie as a director even if I can’t consider myself a fan of any of his films (Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels are perfectly fine). Of his recent works, I noticed a pattern that started to emerge within his films starting with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – adequacy. Between U.N.C.L.E., King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and his remake of Aladdin, I entered the theater for each one of those expecting little and walking out pleasantly surprised. (To be clear, this assessment does not apply to Ritchie’s last film The Gentlemen, which I have not seen.) Each time I walked away saying, “Yeah, it wasn’t that great but it kept me fairly entertained for two hours.” And that was exactly how I felt about Guy Ritchie’s latest film, Wrath of Man. Reuniting with Jason Statham, Wrath of Man has Ritchie unleashing a violent revenge thriller enmeshed within a heist movie. It’s not revolutionary cinema. It’s entirely adequate entertainment.
Wrath of Man opens with an armored truck robbery, the first of many. Amidst the chaos comes a body count. The bodies bleeding on the pavement will be important to the story later on, but to divulge too much would veer into heavy spoiler territory and I won’t do that. Months after this initial heist, the film follows Patrick Hill (Statham) as he takes a job working for the armored car company Fortico. Veteran armed guard Bullet (Holt McCallany), a former soldier, takes Hill under his wing, quickly dubbing him “H.” H quickly understands the nature and the dangers of his new job, though his steely demeanor doesn’t endear him to his new co-workers such as Boy Sweat Dave (Josh Hartnett). However, after thwarting a robbery attempt, H becomes the superstar of Fortico in the eyes of his bosses (played by Eddie Marsan and Rob Delaney). H’s violent heroism leave some around him wondering if he’s been entirely honest about who he really is.
Wrath of Man is an adaptation of the 2004 French film Cash Truck (released in France as Le convoyeur). Ritchie co-wrote the screenplay with co-writers Marn Davies and Ivan Atkinson, and though I haven’t seen the original film I suspect that this is a fairly faithful adaptation. The film bounces around in time, filling in story gaps with various flashbacks. While it’s never boring, it can be a bit confusing as it takes a rather simple, straightforward story and bogs it down with a number of superfluous twists and turns, few of which are actually surprising. The sheer number of twists and reveals makes it very hard to really dive into the events of Wrath of Man without giving away the whole game – which is why I have not revealed any information about the characters played by Andy Garcia, Jeffrey Donovan, and Scott Eastwood. And yet the film winds up being another monument to Guy Ritchie’s valiant commitment to adequacy that Wrath of Man doesn’t completely fly off the rails into middling nonsense.
In their first collaboration in 15 years, Ritchie and his leading man Statham lean in heavily on the actor’s tough guy persona. Whereas their previous films always had plenty of humor, Wrath of Man isn’t really a movie with jokes. It’s a movie where the men speak in plain sentences. There’s no florid use of language. Some actors might struggle with such a stoic role, one where a steely glance says more than any line of dialogue, but not Jason Statham. He’s such a unique presence that dominates the screen, though I do wish Wrath of Man made more use of his underrated comedic brilliance. That being said, Wrath of Man gives Jason Statham plenty of opportunities to unleash violent fury.
It’s obvious that this movie is aiming to be a dude’s movie, and that’s particularly evident in the fact the film basically has two women with speaking roles. This would be a problem if the film were a four-quadrant blockbuster seeking the widest audience possible, but that’s not this film. Guy Ritchie knows the dudes that want to see Jason Statham kick plenty of ass and employs a laser-like focus to please that narrow demographic.
It’s odd how this is another movie by Ritchie that doesn’t completely live up to its potential nor does it ever succumb to its worst tendencies. It’s dumb and violent, but not ignorant and hateful. It’s neither a triumph nor a disaster. In other words, Wrath of Man is a Guy Ritchie movie.
Wrath of Man
- Overall Score
Working together for the first time in 15 years, director Guy Ritchie and star Jason Statham reunite in the action thriller Wrath of Man, which doesn’t dazzle nor disappoint.