A little more than a year after his excellent black comedy The Gentlemen (one of my favourites of 2020), British director Guy Ritchie is back at it with a new action-packed heist movie starring his old collaborator Jason Statham. Although we mostly know Ritchie for his typical English gangster movies with a strong focus on humour and neighborhood feuds, we are in brand new waters here. Indeed, among his very impressive filmography of the last 20 years, it’s fair to say that Wrath of Man is definitely his most serious and brutal film to date. No kidding, this movie is dark and brutal as hell for a director who made us laugh at Brad Pitt with a bizarre accent in Snatch. This new exploration of style and tone, does it pay off? Most certainly!
*The trailer does contain spoilers, watch at your own risk. We would advise against watching it and to go into the movie blind.
Partly available on streaming, partly projected in theatres, this is one of the first ‘hybrid’ movies post-pandemic to test the waters. If this is the kind of entertainment we get in the theatre, the good old days of the box office are not yet over. This movie surprised me…quite a bit!
New genre rhymes with new location. For Wrath of Man, Guy Ritchie drops the dirty neighborhoods of London for the violent underworld of Los Angeles, where the criminals are dead serious about killing innocent civilians to get their hands on an armored truck full of money. Our quiet and mysterious hero is simply named ‘H’ (Jason Statham, still in super shape for an actor pushing 55 years old) and he decides to join a private security team trained to supervise and protect money shipments via armored truck in the streets of LA. His reasons: unknown. He’ll join a squad of jarheads and bullies (Josh Hartnett, Holt McCallany among others), always keeping very quiet and not partaking in the jokes and the fun. As expected, his truck will be hit by local gangs a few times and the security team will slowly realize that ‘H’ is not who he seems to be. Not just an average rookie who barely past the exams, but actually a very skilled shooter and fighter; a man of wrath and violence!
Who is he? The story will tell you, but he’s the kind of guy who thinks that revenge is a dish best served cold, -50 degrees cold.
To say more about the plot would be spoiling it, so I’ll leave it it at that. This movie is both awesome and unsettling, for the simple reason that we did not expect such serious violence from a director as downtown as Guy Ritchie. This is not a tale for the sentimentals; Wrath of Man has no humour whatsoever and is filled with brutal violence that makes you uneasy. The men (because we only have 2 or 3 female characters in the whole film) in this story are merciless, they only care about themselves and their own personal goals, which is either money, vengeance or a pure desire for violence.
Both the cinematography and the script are pretty basic, it relates to any typical heist movie. Where the movie shines is with its loud and well-choreographed action scenes. The gun fights are so epic and destructive that you immediately think of a director like Michael Mann and what he delivered in movies like Heat (1995) and Collateral (2004). When there’s an ambush, there are guns, it gets messy and loud, and men are brutally murdered-end of story. Enjoying an action film like this in the theatre makes you understand how loud an automatic rifle truly is. The heavy music composed by Christopher Benstead intensifies the drama and embellishes the scenes quite nicely – think of Bane’s theme composed by Hans Zimmer in The Dark Knight Rises.
Where I think the movie fails a bit is in its exposition. The film is paced in a way that all the answers are given to you rather quickly (still in its first half), instead of leaving the audience wondering a little more about H’s motivations and the overall plot behind the heists. When we do discover who the character truly is and why he’s implicated, it is pretty epic I can say.
Overall, I confirm that Guy Ritchie’s latest is perhaps his most ‘unique’ film to date and probably one of his best. Fans of the heavy action genre like the John Wick franchise or Christopher Nolan’s work will be thrilled, while others searching for the fun ‘style over substance’ approach found in films like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels won’t find it here. That being said, this movie was a great surprise, one to be enjoyed on the big screen no less.
Before wrapping up, here’s a small debate I had with my friend once we left the theatre. Although I’m a fan of Statham, we can always expect a mean and physical guy who punches when we see him on screen. He delivers a few surprises here, as we don’t expect him to be THAT menacing. I think that the surprise factor would have been even bigger if they decided to cast a more ‘innocent-looking’ actor to fill in ‘H’ shoes to make the violence seem even more shocking (ex: a John Krasinsky, Ryan Gosling or Liam Hemsworth kind of actor). Watch the movie, tell us what you think.