Close to 2 decades later Guy Ritchie and Jason Statham have reunited for Wrath of Man.
Wrath of Man is something rare from writer/director Guy Ritchie… a blunt instrument. Ritchie has stripped himself his own tricks to tell a visually streamlined but fractured tale of vengeance.
After an armored truck heist gone wrong, the company hires a new guard, needing replacements. After an interview, Patrick Hill (Statham) is hired. Dubbed “H” by his training “officer” Bullet (Holt McCallany) everyone agrees that something is afoot with H. Their suspicions are found correct when H is able to quickly dispatch a gang of armed robbers not once but twice in the span of a few months. The group, including Bullet, does not know what specifically H’s deal is. We soon find out that H has plans and intends to serve himself the dish that’s best served cold.
Those that find delight in the fleet-footed storytelling and visual overloaded style that Ritchie has built his career on may be slightly disappointed. The director has opted for a leaner more economic style that works for the somber tone of the piece. There are moments of levity here for sure with Statham’s droll delivery being the source of some great laugh-worthy moments. For the most part, this is Ritchie working in a more serious tone. One that we have not seen from him before.
An adaptation of the French Crime Thriller Cash Truck, Ritchie working with Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies transports the film to Los Angeles. The film feels more akin to the work of Don Seigel that Ritchie has gotten to. Though Ritchie’s propensity for non-linear storytelling is very present. The narrative shifts back and forth in time in an attempt to withhold vital pieces of narrative from the audience for emotional and dramatic impact. This only partially works as the audience will be ahead of some of the more important reveals. To discuss more would be to ruin some of the plot twists that are purposely left out of advertisements.
The reteaming of Statham and Ritchie is a welcome one. Statham has aged like one Hanzo Steel somehow sharper than when he first appeared. The single lettered protagonist H is tailored to the star’s strengths like something out of Saville Road. There is a singularity and efficiency to the way that Statham plays H, a shark that knows stopping is certain death. The way that nothing stops the character and his often-brutal existential way of dealing with all matters are both by turns darkly humorous and truly frightening.
One of the joys of a Ritchie film is not just his visual style but the adroit casting of charismatic actors in supporting roles. Here working with Casting Directors Chelsea Ellis Bloch, Daniel Hubbard, and Marisol Roncali have created an ensemble that cooks from the onset and gets better as the film peaks in its third act. In addition to Statham, Holt McCallany, Josh Hartnett, Jeffery Donovan, Andy Garcia, Laz Alonso, Raúl Castillo, Eddie Marsan, and Niamh Algar all get their moments to shine.
Shocking to some will be the standout performances by Scott Eastwood and Darrell D’Silva. D’Silva playing a voice of reason for Statham plays that cliché “put-upon man” with a laconic grace that we haven’t seen before. There is a moment with D’Silva’s Mike smoking a cigarette putting his head into a car that recalls Tommy Lee Jones at his world-weary best, just with better hair and beard. Eastwood almost steals the show with a truly star-making performance here. Many have criticized the actor almost too harshly mainly because of his lineage. Part of why he is so good is he’s not cast to expectations here. The role frees Eastwood to play it not as his lineage would suggest. The work is the sort that is best discovered as it plays out. Needless to say, Eastwood will gain fans after they see him.
By its end, Wrath of Man proves that Ritchie and Statham remain potent collaborators. The movie may be ground zero in a shift in their respective styles. To which at this point has become a cottage industry for both. If the film is that indication of a burgeoning new chapter, the two are about to begin production on an original spy thriller, fans have a reason for excitement beyond this solid action crime thriller.