Director: Guy Ritchie
Notable Cast: Jason Statham, Holt McCallany, Rocci Williams, Josh Hartnett, Jeffrey Donovan, Scott Eastwood, Andy Garcia, Deobia Oparei, Laz Alonso, Raul Castillo, Chris Reilly, Eddie Marsan, Niamh Algar
When I hear that there is a new film from Jason Statham and/or Guy Ritchie, I just assume I’m going to the movie theater for a good time. Both are oddly adept at comedy, despite their work in the action and thriller genres, and having them reteam up for the first time since Revolver seemed like it was going to be an enjoyable time at the theaters. While I will say that their latest, Wrath of Man, is quite an impressive film, it’s not one that I would call a “fun” time at the theaters. The goal of the film is not quips and quirks. Instead, Wrath of Man is a rather dire and dour experience that intends to explore the heavy material in answering the question, ‘what if a bad man becomes a devastating force of nature in trying to hunt down a specific group of bad men?’ The results may not be fun, but it might be one of the best from both Ritchie and Statham.
H (Statham) is the new guy on the armored truck detail. He’s not the most forthcoming as the new guy and his team likes to make fun of him for his British accent and cold demeanor. When a heist of his armored truck happens though, H is the first to step up and brutally slaughters the thieves. As the armored truck heists continue, H’s team starts to question who he is and just why the violence is starting to boil over.
A remake of the 2004 French film, Cash Truck (Le Convoyeur), Wrath of Man certainly has an odd tonal mixture of modern European thriller and 90s era Michael Mann. If that sentence excites you as much as it would me, then you’re welcome to stop reading now and just go see the film. You’re going to find a lot to love. It’s in this dark, often complex approach to its relatively simple story that the impressive qualities lie. Like so many of Ritchie’s films, the manner that the plot unrolls is non-linear, leaping from the current timeline to previous moments to reveal key information about the various events and character choices that have lead to Statham’s H to be the hurricane of brutal violence he is on his mysterious mission. It’s a film that often chooses to withhold information or dialogue expressly explaining what’s happening or key dynamics between its cast. From moment to moment, the film can be vague like exploring H’s backstory or explosively boisterous particularly in its action and violence.
While H is certainly the driving force, his character has relatively little character arc in the film. In perhaps the biggest leap that Wrath of Man takes, it chooses to humanize most of the secondary cast over Statham’s lead - including the villains who show up for the first time in the second half. The armored truck thieves, which includes most of the heavier second tier names (and a welcome appearance by Jeffrey Donovan) could easily have been the protagonists if the film was chosen to be approached differently and it would have still been a solid effort. By the time the third act, which features a brilliantly shot, choreographed, and paced gun battle reminiscent of Mann’s Heat, one is almost apt to root for the thieves to survive Statham’s relentless Terminator inspired killer.
Wrath of Man features a ton of bold choices worthy of praise. Whether its a slew of nuanced performances, incredibly well shot and brutal shootouts, or its intriguingly angled narrative choices, it’s a film that showcases a steadier and more precise directorial effort from Ritchie and a darker and more intense role for Statham. It may not be the film that some audience members wanted, with its lack of humor and cold approach to character development, but it’s exactly the film that they need to see from the dynamic duo of star and director.