WRATH OF MAN (2021)
Starring Jason Statham, Holt McCallany, Rocci Williams, Josh Hartnett, Jeffrey Donovan, Scott Eastwood, Andy Garcia, DeObia Oparei, Raúl Castillo, Laz Alonzo, Chris Reilly, Eddie Marsan, Niamh Algar, Tadhg Murphy, Alessandro Babalola, Mark Arnold, Gerald Tyler, Babs Olusanmokun, Josh Cowdery, Rob Delaney, Lyne Renée and Post Malone.
Screenplay by Guy Ritchie and Ivan Atkinson & Marn Davies.
Directed by Guy Ritchie.
Distributed by United Artists Releasing. 118 minutes. Rated R.
Guy Ritchie’s films have certainly changed over the years, and yet in some ways they have stayed the same. Ritchie started out doing slam-bang testosterone-charged action films like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and Revolver. However, somewhere along the line he went Hollywood. (It was probably about the time he married his ex-wife, pop superstar Madonna.)
Ritchie became something of a cheesy gun for hire, basically specializing in awkwardly rebooting classic stories like his horrible Sherlock Holmes movies, King Arthur, The Man from UNCLE, Swept Away and the actually not-half-bad live-action remake of Aladdin. However, among his blatant sellout attempted blockbusters, he’ll sometimes still drop in one of his old-fashioned shoot ‘em up adventures like RockNRolla and The Gentlemen.
Wrath of Man is also a remake – this time of a relatively obscure 2004 French film called Le Convoyeur (Cash Truck) by director Nicolas Boukhrief. However, this new version absolutely falls into the category of Ritchie’s “tough guys with big guns” aesthetic.
The title Wrath of Man is a little more telling than I think even Ritchie meant for it to be. This is one of the most self-consciously “manly” films since… well, I guess since Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen two years ago. The characters are all almost self-consciously tough and macho. They act and talk like they all gargle testosterone. They have nicknames like Bullet, Boy Sweat, The King, Boss and H. Even the one female member of the team – and one of very few females allowed to appear in this boy’s club of a film – is tough as balls.
Yet, I must admit, Wrath of Man kind of works. It’s not great, but it is a rather good actioner, if honestly way too self-consciously violent for my tastes. Even though it takes place in the US (Los Angeles, to be exact…), it feels like one of Ritchie’s gritty London street crime tales.
Ritchie reunites with Jason Statham in this film. (Statham also starred in the first three Ritchie films I referenced above – Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and Revolver.) And it is an oddly comfortable fit. It’s not that Statham is a particularly skilled actor – in fact, his acting skills run the emotional gamut from glowering menace to barely-repressed rage. Even when his characters are supposed to be sanguine, they feel like a ticking bomb.
However, this role is not supposed to be a subtle or nuanced. He is a cipher, a sociopath, an avenging dark angel who because of sheer lust for vengeance somehow falls on the right side of the law, at least this one time. He is a man with a code. It may be a heartless code, occasionally sick and twisted and mostly rather ambivalent to death – but it is a code, nonetheless.
Essentially, Wrath of Man is about – as the French title suggests – armored trucks. Specifically, heavily armed, former-military criminals who are now doing a bunch of heists of the heavily fortified trucks. These former special forces officers are not totally averse to violence. The film starts with a heist which goes awry, ending up with the truck drivers being murdered, as well as an innocent bystander.
Fast forward a few months, and we meet H (Statham), a guy who shows up at an armored truck company to become a new guard. He quickly gains the trust of his bosses because he has ice in his veins. However, even from the beginning, you can tell there is something more to H than what he is letting on.
It turns out that he is a criminal himself. In fact, he seems to be a ruthless crime boss. However, he is not looking to knock off the company. He has taken the job to find out who killed his college-age son – who was the innocent bystander shot at the armored truck robbery.
And that is the story, basically, H keeping his eyes open, trying to lure the killers back out. Wrath of Man floats back and forth in time, giving you a greater understanding of what happened. In fact, the audience reexperiences the original robbery at least two or three more times, gleaning a bit more about what really happened each time the film flashes back.
It turns out to be a surprisingly tense and action-packed storyline, at least until things spin out of control a bit with a wildly violent coda. Wrath of Man doesn’t always make much sense, but on its own terms it’s a mostly enjoyable ride.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2021 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 6, 2021.