Wrath of Man Synopsis: H (Jason Statham) is a cold and mysterious character working at a cash truck company responsible for moving hundreds of millions of dollars around Los Angeles each week. After disposing of an attempted robbery, H sets his sights on revenge for the loss of his son.
The careers of Jason Statham and Guy Ritchie will forever be intertwined by their spirited indie days. With sharp and brazenly idiosyncratic efforts like Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Ritchie exhibited a singular voice due to his penchant for verbose vulgarities and oft-kilter storytelling. The material’s lean-and-mean energy also made a perfect canvas for Statham’s stern-faced charisma, setting the ground floor for the star’s sturdy career as a poised killing machine.
After a few decades apart, the two distinct personas re-team in Wrath of Man, a taunt-heist picture made in the image of Statham’s traditioned action formula. While some may be disappointed by the film’s modest appeals, Wrath of Man assuredly scratches that shameless genre movie itch.
The pair’s well-documented relationship gives this action title a sizable advantage over its peers, with both possessing a finite understanding of the other’s distinct strengths. Statham has rarely been better as the vengeful H, portraying the character’s blind vengeance with dramatic weight and his typical action star charisma (few deliver vulgar one-liners with such effortless disdain). I also appreciate how the actor’s typically steely-eyed persona is incorporated in a newfound sense of purpose.
Ritchie’s screenplay (co-written by Eric Besnard and Nicolas Boukhrief) allows H to become more than another amalgam of action hero cliche. The script’s substantive undertones, while fairly routine for an action film, wisely delve into the character’s questionable moral compasses amidst the hyper-masculine, dog-eats-dog setting (I love Ritchie’s use of dramatic irony, as he’s always finding satisfying ways to pay off even the smallest of character arcs). His sharp writing also skillfully elevates the tertiary meathead roles. Beloved character actors like Scott Eastwood, Holt McCallany, and Josh Hartnett propel their bit parts into meaningful contributions (Hartnett has a blast as a skittish man with a “tough guy” complex).
Fear not action fans, as Ritchie’s film still delivers the satisfying genre mechanics audiences crave. Wrath of Man works patiently amidst the heist genre’s slow-burn plotting before unleashing setpieces that sing with real-world tension and agency. Ritchie’s vibrant touch as a director remains very much intact, employing a range of smooth tracking shots and steady framing to intensify the close-quarters gunplay. Bullets fly by the dozens while characters are slaughtered in an unpredictable fashion, keeping audiences on their toes until the satisfying finale hammers the film’s thesis home.
Wrath of Man certainly scores above its B-movie action paygrade, but not all of Guy Ritchie’s trademark touches are welcomed. His dialogue still ranges from bitingly clever to painfully juvenile. The latter category includes a bevy of cringe-inducing barbs that transport audiences to the stone age of chauvinist action cinema (Ritchie’s struggles writing well-defined female characters are well-documented). I can see where these touches could purposefully reflect toxic masculinity and men’s primal instincts, but Ritchie doesn’t go deep enough in the conceit to truly sell the idea.
I also wished Ritchie pushed the envelope more from a visual perspective. Similar to The Gentlemen, Wrath of Man lacks the unhinged creativity behind the director’s signature projects. It occasionally feels like he’s conforming too much to Statham’s well-versed action formula rather than pushing the envelope with his trademark sensibility.
Issues aside, Wrath of Man is the brutal and brazenly badass action film audiences have sorely missed on the big screen. It’s a blast to see Statham back in his barebones action formula (2016’s Mechanic: Resurrection was his last project of this elk), so here’s to hoping more starring vehicles are on their way for him.
WRATH OF MAN opens in theaters on May 7th.
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