Wrath of Man
Reuniting for the first time in 16 years, Jason Statham and Guy Ritchie avoid simply rehashing their shared past glories in this effective revenge thriller.
Too many times in his now 23-year feature filmmaking career, Guy Ritchie has happily crammed a heap of his favourite things into a bag, shaken it about, spilled it out onto the screen and called it his next movie. The British director likes twisty crime capers, dialogue peppered with slang and wisecracks, and memorable character nicknames. He loves chopping his narratives up into parts, then piecing them back together in a non-linear fashion. And, he's rather fond of enlisting sizeable ensemble casts, then switching between their varying perspectives. He's keen on trying to keep his audiences guessing, too. That said, he also likes having someone explain the inner workings of a plan, then showing said scheme in action while those descriptive words echo above his needle drop-heavy soundtrack. If you've seen Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Revolver, RocknRolla or The Gentlemen, you'll recognise all of the above. And, you'll know that in three of those films, Ritchie managed to point his lens at another of his favourite things as well. Lock Stock and Snatch didn't just make Ritchie a star, but also catapulted Jason Statham to fame. The pair found a groove that worked for them, and it changed their lives — until, with Revolver, it didn't.
With revenge thriller Wrath of Man, Ritchie and Statham reunite after 16 years apart. During that stretch, the former subjected the world to his terrible Sherlock Holmes films, fared better with left-field additions to his resume like The Man From UNCLE and Aladdin, but didn't quite know what to do with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. The latter has become an action go-to over the same time — with both forgettable and memorable flicks resulting, including three Fast and Furious movies and a stint scowling at Dwayne Johnson in the franchise's odd-couple spinoff Hobbs & Shaw. Accordingly, Ritchie and Statham reteam after heading in their own directions. Thankfully, they're not just interested in rehashing their shared past glories. From Wrath of Man's first moments, with its tense, droning score, its high-strung mood and its filming of an armoured van robbery from inside the vehicle, a relentlessly grim tone is established. When Statham shows up shortly afterwards, he's firmly in stoic mode, too. He does spout a few quippy lines, and Ritchie once again unfurls his narrative by jumping between different people, events and time periods, but Lock, Stock Again or Snatch Harder this isn't.
Instead, Wrath of Man is a remake of 2004 French film Le Convoyeur. While walking in someone else's shoes turned out horrendously for Ritchie with the Madonna-starring Swept Away, that isn't the case here. Statham plays Patrick Hill, the newest employee at the Los Angeles-based cash truck company Fortico Securities. On his first day, his colleague Bullet (Holt McCallany, Mindhunter) dubs him H — "like the bomb, or Jesus H," he says — and the nickname quickly sticks. H joins the outfit a few months after the aforementioned holdup, with the memory of the two coworkers and civilian killed in the incident still fresh in everyone's minds. So, when gunmen interrupt his first post-training run with Bullet and Boy Sweat Dave (Josh Hartnett, Penny Dreadful), they're unsurprisingly jumpy; however, H deals with the situation with lethal efficiency. Cue glowing praise from Fortico's owner (Rob Delaney, Tom & Jerry), concern from his by-the-book manager (Eddie Marsan, Vice) and intrigue about his past from the rest of the team (such as Angel Has Fallen's Rocci Williams and Calm with Horses' Niamh Algar).
Ritchie leaps both forwards and backwards from there, teasing out H's backstory and also exploring exactly what's brought him to his current gig. But this isn't just his tale, as seen via the time spent with Jackson (Jeffrey Donovan, Let Him Go), Jan (Scott Eastwood, The Outpost) and their fellow military veterans — plus glimpses of Agent King (Andy Garcia, Words on Bathroom Walls). The ominous mood remains steadfastly intact as Wrath of Man fleshes out the details, and composer Christopher Benstead (The Gentlemen) keeps working overtime with the nerve-rattling thrumming. Both could be accused of overplaying their hands, but they're effective. The same applies to Statham's no-nonsense tough guy routine, which never wavers, yet never becomes monotonous either. He exudes menace from the outset, as he typically does on-screen, but here it's of the baked-in variety. Wrath of Man isn't short on narrative twists, moving parts on justifications for H's behaviour, but there's an internalised sense of pain and anger in Statham's performance that never feels as if it's just going through the plot-dictated motions.
Statham still glowers, throws around fists and shoots bullets like a man on a mission — and growls his lines like each word is a weapon, too — all of which happens often. But Wrath of Man is a streamlined rather than an indulgent action film. While it runs mere minutes shy of two hours, it doesn't pad out its frames with overblown and overly chaotic filler. As Godzilla vs Kong and Nobody also demonstrated recently, the power of cleanly shot and coherently staged action scenes really can't be underestimated. Viewers should be swept up in the action, rather than lost in it, which Ritchie, cinematographer Alan Stewart (Tom and Jerry) and editor James Hebert (Edge of Tomorrow) understand. Ritchie and co-screenwriters Marn Davies and Ivan Atkinson (The Gentlemen) also know the difference between a complicated storyline and a convoluted one. They wade into murky thematic territory, including exactly why folks might be driven to wage violent campaigns of vengeance or carry out intricate robberies, but don't ever expect to deliver easy answers. Wrath of Man doesn't come close to reaching the heights of fellow LA-set heist films Point Break and Heat, and it's also well aware of the crime and revenge genres' many conventions; however, it finds its niche. It also leaves its audience looking forward to the next collaboration between Ritchie and Statham — an as-yet-untitled spy film that's already been shot — rather than dreading that they'll simply stick to their decades-old greatest hits.