Review: Cunning 'Wrath of Man' sees Jason Statham and Guy Ritchie on top of their game
Courtesy of United Artists/Miramax
For the millennials in the room, Jason Statham represents what Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Van-Damme meant to the previous generation. Headlining a string of macho-buff action flicks where the nonsensical plot didn’t matter as long as necks were getting broken and bullets were flying, Statham had an insane run: from “Crank” to “Safe” – with higher quality fare like “The Bank Job” sprinkled in for good measure. Not many action stars in the streaming era can open a film domestically without existing IP attached to it. So, it’s refreshing to see Statham pairing up with Ritchie for a surprisingly layered heist (theatrical only) thriller that offers genuine excitement and suspense. Just when you think it’s going in one direction; it completely swerves toward another. Perhaps we should expect that from Ritchie, a suave filmmaker who loves to bludgeon senses with brawls and bruises; except “Wrath of Man” – a fitting title for the Statham vehicle – marks a major improvement over “The Gentleman,” because audiences will be tested and the violence has purpose.
While Statham was able to flex his chops alongside Dwayne Johnson in “Hobbs and Shaw” and fought a giant shark in “The Meg,” “Wrath of Man” doesn’t roll out costly, crummy looking special effects and brings him back down to reality. There’s depth to his character and the motivations become more succinct as Ritchie unspools the narrative’s condensed timeline, of which is more complicated than it first appears.
Statham plays H, a new hire for an armored car company that specializes in transporting truckloads of cash for banks, casinos, and department stores across LA. After a deadly robbery two months prior left the company shaken, they’ve stepped up their game, hiring weapons trained experts who will pull the trigger should the need arise. It doesn’t take long for H to prove himself, quickly dismantling armed thugs who try to overtake his route (Post Malone has a small cameo here and its payoff is extremely satisfying).
H’s tactics capture the attention of his peers: “I think he might be a psychopath” his boss, played by Eddie Marsen, says while others claim he’s a hero. But there’s a twist halfway through “Wrath of Man” that reveals ulterior motives, and Ritchie cuts a solid chunk of the film’s second act to flesh out an ensemble of characters. (This is the perfect example of the less you know going in, the better). “Wrath of Man” isn’t a traditional heist film and Ritchie is wise to play with the genre’s conventions, but there’s minimal to complain about, especially if you love Statham and watch “Den of Thieves” and “Heat” on repeat.
“Wrath of Man” is a top-tier return to grace for Statham who showcases a dynamic range that highlights his abilities as an actor and ass-kicker. He easily maneuvers through a variety of different segments and moving elements, allowing Ritchie to steer ahead of the moviegoers. Not many action pictures can sustain that momentum for almost two hours, but “Wrath of Man” knows better than to let audiences out of its grasp.
WRATH OF MAN is now playing in theaters.