Guy Ritchie tells a darker tale
Your ultimate feelings on the quality of Guy Ritchie and Jason Statham’s latest team up, Wrath Of Man, may hinge upon how interesting you find the armored car heist that is depicted in an extended long take at the beginning of the film. This is, of course, because this heist will be revisited over and over from every possible angle in order to reveal new components of this consequential heist that we didn’t see in that opening long take. Me? I was swept right up in this dark crime yarn from minute one and had an absolute blast with Wrath Of Man. But if harrowing armored car heists and straight up old testament style vengeance aren’t really your thing, you’ll want to look elsewhere because this film is packed to the gills with swagger and tactical assaults.
At this point, assuming you know who Guy Ritchie is, you’re almost certainly firmly on his train, or decidedly not. He’s now been working steadily for decades and has established a distinct style and offered a familiar toolbelt of filmmaking tricks that can feel like a warm blanket to fans or whirling distractions to detractors. I’m so happily seated on the Guy Ritchie train that I’d probably pay a little extra for a first class seat at this point. No, they aren’t all winners. In fact, Statham and Ritchie’s last team up after the one-two punch classics of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch was a dud called Revolver. So this reteaming was a long time coming as Revolver hit in 2005. I think the wait was worth it, even if Wrath of Man isn’t perfect.
It’s not exactly daring at this point to break your film up into chapters, or to go non-linear with your story’s timeline. Film buffs have seen all of that before. But when you do go that route, as writers Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson, and Marn Davies do (adapted from Le Convoyeur by Nicolas Boukhrief and Eric Bresnard), then you better have some fun with it. And despite Wrath Of Man being a dark tale of vengeance at its core, these writers know they’ve got the incomparable Jason Statham as the lead in their film, and they make sure to take full advantage of the slow build that keeps us guessing as to Statham’s origins and intentions, whilst maximizing the ultimate godlike repercussions he will reap upon those who did him wrong. It’s a script that is both having a blast as it plays with time and shifting perspectives (and even taking an entire chapter to shift perspectives to an almost entirely separate cast of characters we hadn’t been following previously)… but also stumbling some in its dialog and occasionally coming off as a little “try hard” with witty banter that isn’t quite as witty as it thinks it is.
Wrath Of Man also joins the ever growing club of films that are trying to make Scott Eastwood work as a screen presence. Wrath Of Man therefore becomes the latest victim of the younger Eastwood, who, while beautiful to look at, has yet to deliver a single line of on screen dialog that I buy. Wrath of Man comes closest to making Scott Eastwood work of any of his films I’ve ever seen because he does not speak for quite a while. Ritchie shows us a facially scarred Scott Eastwood in slow motion close up and I briefly thought “wow, this is the best Scott Eastwood has ever been”. But then he speaks dialog, and the illusion slipped away. I’m being harsh, but it’s worth pointing out that deep down, I am kind of pulling for Eastwood. I unabashedly love Clint Eastwood, and I don’t even really mind Hollywood nepotism all that much. I’d probably love it if Eastwood was able to transcend the narrative and become a star both because and in spite of his lineage. But thus far, I just don’t think he’s got the chops. Prove me wrong, Scott.
And so, in spite of some flat dialog and a wooden Scott Eastwood, Wrath Of Man nonetheless overcomes, providing a highly entertaining and satisfying yarn that never transcends into greatness, but also stubbornly refuses to ever let you get bored. To reveal much about the plot of Wrath of Man would be a disservice to the game that the film is playing. But essentially we follow Statham’s H as he begins a job as the new guy on an armored truck security crew. Such wonderful cast members as Holt McCallany, Josh Hartnett, and Ritchie regular Eddie Marsan accompany H on this part of the journey. There’s a whole lot of camaraderie and “dude bro” banter as we patiently walk through H’s training and first days on the job. Then, when their truck is hit, and H displays almost supernatural tactical ability and takes down the entire crew of robbers… we and the characters surrounding H know that something “else” is going on. Because we’re an audience of moviegoers familiar with Jason Statham, we’re perhaps not as surprised as the characters surrounding H that he can lay waste to hordes of enemies. But Wrath of Man has a lot of fun teasing out just how ruthless and driven H is.
Thematically, there are also some pretty great concepts explored such as the familial consequences of men doing bad things and living a life of crime that ripples into their domestic lives in ways they hoped would never happen. And there’s some exploration of what it’s like for soldiers trying to acclimate to civilian life and finding it lacking, or finding that society has no use for their skills. Some of the darkness of Wrath Of Man is enriched by the exploration of these concepts, but to say much more would be to lay Wrath Of Man’s cards on the table, and I don’t want to do that.
Wrath Of Man was a perfect project to re-team a beloved director-star duo. And while Ritchie thrives on these kinds of street level crime tales, Wrath Of Man feels like a departure from (and improvement on) something quite as throwback as The Gentlemen. Somewhat more grounded than his signature fantastical crime yarns, Wrath Of Man is able to straddle the line between holy vengeance, weighty commentary, and the kind of satisfaction that can only come from seeing a star like Statham go to superhuman lengths to wreak havoc. It’s not perfect by any stretch, but it’ll almost certainly end up being one of the most satisfying crime-action films of 2021.
Warner Brothers Home Entertainment has quite honestly done Wrath of Man dirty on its home video release. Absolutely devoid of even the most basic bonus features, this Blu-ray is bare bones all the way. This kind of thing is more and more prevalent, and disappointing. That said, I’m perhaps even more disappointed that this generously budgeted studio film by known visual stylist Guy Ritchie was not given the 4K UHD treatment. Sure, the movie looks pretty great on Blu-ray, but WB isn’t giving us many reasons to cough up the change to purchase this particular release when an HD digital purchase or rental is also an option.
And I’m Out.
Wrath Of Man is now available on Blu-ray/DVD/Digital from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment