Directed By Guy Ritchie
Starring – Jason Statham, Holt McCallany, Josh Hartnett
The Plot – Mysterious and wild-eyed, a new security guard (Statham) for a cash truck surprises his co-workers when he unleashes precision skills during a heist. The crew is left wondering who he is and where he came from. Soon, the marksman’s ultimate motive becomes clear as he takes dramatic and irrevocable steps to settle a score.
Rated R for Some Sexual References, Pervasive Language, and Strong Violence Throughout
– Rumbling intensity. In my opinion, Ritchie is one of the more underrated action directors going today, and with a steadfast execution combined a riveting sound design, he conveys excellence once more in being such a dependable force. Part of what I love in this film is the dominance of handheld arsenal, complete with a rampant delivery that when combined with the consistency for speed in editing, does display an experience that is easily immersive in the context of the sequence exuberating raw and endless energy by the dozen. While the film is definitely of the action genre first and foremost, I love the patience for its display during sporadic moments of the script. This keeps the necessity of it fresh in the minds of the audience without its concept overstaying its welcome with constructs that are every bit derivative as they are repetitive in emphasis. It’s violence with a purpose, and not the kind that Ritchie exploits for the sake of catering to a rating.
– Casting surprises. Statham is obviously right at home in a film like this, escaping a barrage of bullets and dangerous adversaries that constantly keep him on his toes. But it’s the surprising abundance of depth to his character that I found most compelling against a backdrop of mostly repetitive roles in his filmography. Statham emotes H with a calm and calculating demeanor that plays vicariously into the ambiguity of his character with a set of skills that he obviously picked up somewhere other than the rumored police force in his company file. Statham’s physicality is still the meat of his arsenal, however, and even at the age of 53, his believability in the role isn’t sacrificed in speed or swagger, the both of which keep him constantly engaged as one of the cooler leading lads in 21st century cinema. Besides Statham, it was great to see Josh Hartnett return to the silver screen, embodying a diverse character to his registry that is conniving and cowardice, and not necessarily traits we typically refer to him by. Also reputable are turns Jeffrey Donovan as a disgraced army sergeant, and especially Scott Eastwood giving his single best performance to date, which easily breaks the mold of typecasting that he has previously been confined to.
– Non-linear storytelling. Much of the film’s first act is conveyed straight enough, with a series of instances and engagements that we initially dismiss as throwaway, but eventually pertain to a bigger picture. This is revealed during the second and third acts, which almost entirely play into a series of flashbacks meant to fill in the gaps for the who and the why that much of that initial first act playfully hints at. This, with the addition of a condensed chapter format, is meant to play into the concept of the audience seeing things in different perspectives, challenging everything we knew about the motivation of characters that really carves out greater meaning to a series of movements and motivations that would otherwise feel questionable on the surface level. This allows the film to reduce the sting of tropes both in the revenge and the action thriller genres, respectively, with a structure that outlines a fresh take for an otherwise by the numbers formula.
– Tonally ominous. “Wrath of Man” feels satisfyingly darker for both a Statham and Ritchie film, in that it offers very few moments of breath-releasing levity in between the moments that are very brunt and full of consequences for a series of characters. This keeps things realistic in my eyes of experience, mainly in the environment that the film sets up for money handlers, complete with a vulnerability that one character establishes by calling themselves “The prey and not the predator”. It’s also a decision that feels synthetically faithful to the frame of mind of its protagonist, embodying a focused calculation that keeps the mission at the forefront of his mind at all times, without letting the elements of his newfound environment, like jerks on the job, get in the way of the bigger picture that is figuratively playing in the back of his mind at all times. It proves Ritchie’s versatility as a director, as the same man who directed Disney’s “Aladdin” only three years previously, and conjures up one of the more inescapably foreboding experiences that I have had since 2017’s “Sicario”.
– Character balance. Part of my biggest problem with most Statham action films is they lack a commanding opposition to bring out the best within him. That isn’t the case with “Wrath of Man”, as a majority of the film’s second half is spent with the antagonists while fully fleshing out their ideals associated with such a mission. This not only gives them a fully lived-in quality that is evident throughout the screenplay, but it further intensifies the importance of the climax when you spend ample time through the eyes of each respective side. In doing so, we have a series of complex characters who are every bit the shade of grey that Statham’s H candidly is, instead of the outdated good and bad that even still make up a majority of action heist films today. I understood their dreaded dispositions without fully justifying them, setting the trains on the tracks for an inevitable confrontation that tears the walls down on everything previously established in the nearly two hour run time.
– Fully engaged. Speaking of said run time, Ritchie makes the most of the experience with a productively paced script that prescribes meaning in nearly every scene or sequence accordingly. From the opening frame of the movie, we’re lifted off of the ground with a heist that sets the movements in motion for the characters and predicaments that make up everything to follow, all the while maintaining mystery in the ambiguity of its absent backstory that magnetically pulls its audience into the intrigue of the setting. From there, scenes of both action and non are appealing with the way they’re constructed between character dialogue. Most of it feels enriched with grounded authenticity without needing the cool factor of typically sharp cinematically written dialogue, attaining a fly on the wall uniqueness that essentially feels like we stumbled into a series of conversations rhythmically moving to a finish line without pointing out its obviousness in intention. It’s a film that only gets better the further it progresses, mainly for the answers that we attain along the way, outlining an experience that I enthrallingly engaged in, all the way to the movie’s climax.
– Substantial style. Ritchie has always been an experimental filmmaker who conjures up some of the more visually stimulating sequences in all of mainstream cinema, and this experience is certainly nonetheless in that regard. Blessed with cinematographer Alan Stewart’s masterful compositions that stitch together a variety of heights and unorthodox angles, Ritchie supplants a presentation that evidently elevates the depth of the material, all the while hyping up the suffocating anxiety that remains prominent because of a series of long take sequences manipulated to look like one continuous take. My favorite is easily that of the opening sequence, which focuses on a physical act taking place in the foreground of the characters, all the while displaying something blurred that is shaping up in the distance. This sets an inevitability that audiences anticipate long before the collision materializes, documenting two combustible elements intensifying with each passing second.
– Frustrating score. While initially pertaining to the ominously gloomy atmosphere that Ritchie illustrates from the opening frame, the mostly repetitive score from composer Christopher Benstead overstays its welcome for its lack of unraveling depth by around the twenty minute mark in the film. It’s blaring organs are mixed with the kind of volume intensity that nearly overrides character dialogue completely, all the while strumming a distinguishable familiarity that feels like it is constantly on repeat throughout the entirety of these scenes. Benstead is a longtime collaborator with Ritchie, so I understand his inclusion to the movie’s production. However, the darkness of the tones themselves felt a bit too on-the-nose for my money, and when paired with an instrumental registry that feels familiar for Depeche Mode cover bands of the post 90’s influence, it begins to feel distracting to my overall investment to the picture.
– Strange edits. Considering the film is articulated with a hard-R emphasis on some of the violence and brutality that remains a constant throughout, there’s a concerning narrative spun with the movie’s editing that made for some confusing depictions of continuity within the context of the frame. I point to two particular instances involving character deaths, which happen off screen because the scene cuts right before the confrontation resolves itself. This leaves us the audience needing to forcefully fill in the gaps of logic with what materialized in frame, but definitely makes me scratch my head for why this film decided to get bashful, especially during its pivotal climax. For the most part during the film, the editing is respectable enough to never intrude or convolute the presentation of its sequences, but there’s something about these duo of instances that contradicted the consistency of the presentation, making for two characters I was wholeheartedly invested in, who deserved more with the concept of resolution.
– Leaps in logic. At the halfway point in this film, I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of necessity to have to suspend disbelief that often comes with a majority of Guy Ritchie’s respective filmography. Unfortunately, my surprise was met with disdain once the film’s exposition heavy second half comes to fruition, presenting us answers in the way of character movements and motivations. One such instance that I won’t spoil revolves around a certain character going deeply undercover to seek answers for his cause, but the problem is the amount of risk associated with the task times the measure of importance that this character has to others makes this a difficult to believe assumption that stretches reality even in a Guy Ritchie movie. In other movies of his with an arguably comedic dominance, I can understand the leaps and boundaries that reach a little further to illustrate reality, but in a film of this caliber, with a mostly down to earth emphasis on its setting and characters, some of the decisions feel a bit silly at times, breaking my concentration for the things that are easy enough for me to question, but somehow escaped Ritchie’s level of reality.
My Grade: 7/10 or B-