LUNGS, LIVER, SPLEEN, HEART
Director Guy Ritchie definitely has a unique style of his own when directing theatrical feature films; a testament to his ability as a director for adding flavor and presenting each of his movies into a new light. In 1998, Ritchie made his directorial debut film with the release of the crime comedy Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, which propelled director forward with several other noteworthy releases such as 2000’s crime comedy Snatch, and the crime thrillers Revolver in 2005 and RocknRolla in 2008. Ritchie made the jump from British crime dramas to big-budgeted Hollywood tentpoles with the release of 2009’s period piece mystery / action film Sherlock Holmes and its sequel 2011 Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows as well as 2017’s fantasy adventure King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Ritchie would then venture outside into other directorial avenues and genres, including the 2015 spy remake of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and the family film variety with Disney’s live-action remake of Aladdin in 2019, before returning to his more traditional roots of British crime drama with the release of The Gentlemen in 2020. Now, United Artist Recordings and director Guy Ritchie presents the latest film with the revenge thriller heist film titled Wrath of Man. Is the movie worth a glance at or is it just a stereotypical revenge setup that isn’t worth the pay-off?
Patrick “H” Hill (Jason Statham) is a new hire at Fortico Security and is ready for action, impressing his new superiors with his physical strength and dedicated demeanor to the armored car business. A man of few words and not really sociable, his co-workers aren’t quite sure what to make of the new recruit, who simply goes by the name of H. Teamed with Haiden “Bullet” Blaire (Holt McCallany), a seasoned veteran in the business, and “Boy Sweat” Dave Hancock (Josh Hartnett), an upcoming, youthful guard, H is tested on the job by armed robbers looking to get their hands on their payload of cash the employees are hired to transport / defend. After taking out a team of “would-be” crooks without breaking a sweat, Fortico is happy to give H more responsibility, but his focus is elsewhere, taking special notes of his colleagues and their behavior around their job, who (in turn) begin to question his purpose at the company, and his unusual niche for guns and close-quarter combat. To be sure, H’s purpose at Fortico isn’t for the love of armored truck driving, but one of deeper meaning and tactical revenge; piecing together clues to an unfortunate incident that involved his late son’s death. As events unfold, H’s backstory is revealed and finds out when trouble comes calling at Fortico Security headquarters.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Guy Ritchie. While he’s not a household director name like Stephen Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Clint Eastwood, or Francis Ford Coppola, Ritchie’s work does speak for himself, with a mostly good track record of features to back that up. Of course, his earlier works are perhaps some of his best; providing some a good British crime drama, with some of my favorites being Snatch and RocknRolla. Of course, I absolutely loved the two Sherlock Holmes movies, with Ritchie (along with actors Robert Downey Jr. and Judy Law) bringing their charisma and unique styles to sort of “breath new life” into Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works. Additionally, I loved his iteration of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I know that film faced mixed reviews and wasn’t a huge box office success, but it was very enjoyable and entertaining, especially with Cavill, Hammer, and Vikander in their respective character roles. Sadly, I wasn’t too impressed with Ritchie’s past three endeavors as I found King Arthur: Legend of the Sword to be too haphazardly mess and thin, his live-action remake of Aladdin was fun, but “meh” in a lot of parts and struggle in a few areas, and his return to British crime drama in The Gentlemen was a be too convoluted and underwhelming. Overall, I think Ritchie definitely has a knack for directing and I look forward to seeing where his several next films will take him.
This brings me back to talking about Wrath of Man, a 2021 action revenge thriller endeavor and Ritchie’s latest film. I can’t remember exactly when I heard about this project as I was remembering hearing more about his earlier projects of 2019’s Aladdin and 2020’s The Gentlemen. I think it was sometime after the release of The Gentlemen that I first heard about this movie, with Ritchie going to be a revenge thriller film and having actor Jason Statham in the lead role. I love Statham, so I was interested in that aspect, but, as I mentioned above, I felt that Ritchie was starting to slip into creating somewhat mediocre films with the most recent releases. So, I was a bit leer to see this upcoming project. However, the film’s movie trailer looked enticing enough for me to kind of overlook my doubts. So, I decided to see Wrath of Man a few weeks after its May 7th, 2021, US release date. Sadly, I fell behind in my movie reviews as my work schedule got busy and several reviews that I still needed to do were pushed back, including this one. Fortunately, after my vacation, I’m starting to go back and finally having the time to get some of these reviews done, which brings me to my thoughts about this movie. And what did I think of it? Well, I liked it. Despite a few mechanics in its execution, I felt that Wrath of Man was a solid slow-burner revenge thriller that delivers on its goals and within its unconventional methodically approach of storytelling. It’s not exactly Ritchie’s best film to date, but definitely pulls the director out of his rut of mediocre feature film endeavors by delivering a brooding and captivating feature of one man’s determination and ruthlessness of revenge.
Interestingly, I found out that Wrath of Man is actually sort of “loosely” based off of a 2004 French film titled Le Conveyor (i.e., Cash Truck). With Ritchie at the helm, Wrath of Man makes for a “brooding” movie that is quite apparent when the feature’s main actor of H first appearance; setting the stage for a more methodically approach to the film. For lack of a better of term, the film is considered to be a “slow burner”, slowly uncovering the truth behind H’s predicament through vague notions and uncovering his background through the feature, which leads into the third act where everything is revealed. The storytelling approach for the movie is perhaps the most discussed aspect in Wrath of Man, with Ritchie and his team separating the feature into five chapters; each one delving into various aspects of the film’s protagonist (or antagonists), which is connected / chain reaction what the feature’s main overall thread. To me, it was very different, but what makes it “different” is probably what differentiate itself from generic “run-of-the-mill” revenge action thrillers that Hollywood throws out every now and again. There’s a sense of mystery and foreboding throughout the movie’s narrative structure by keeping its viewers engage in the narrative. It does struggle in its pacing and how it proceeds to make the viewer’s sort of “in the dark” (more on that below), but when Ritchie lays all the cards on the table in the latter half of the feature for the climatic third act…. the payoff for it definitely works. This is where the film truly shines and has plenty to entice viewers in how everything plays out and the ultimately resolution of Wrath of Man ends.
Ritchie also has a good approach to its action or rather his grittiness to what’s being convey on-screen. To be sure, there is action in the movie, but its not the madcap shoot’em up that some might be expect from either Ritchie himself or a typical Jason Statham action thriller. Yes, there is action in the feature, but it’s more reserved for the third act set pieces, which (again) is great. That being said, there is action scenes in the first two acts, but are, more or less, sprinkled in these portions of the film. That’s not to say these scenes aren’t effective as they are and showcase Ritchie’s earlier days of gritty action and brutal drama. In a nutshell, Wrath of Man isn’t for the faint of heart as there are plenty of uneasiness and suspenseful moments that will make a viewer’s attention glue to the movie (and maybe squirm) in how everything plays out. It’s all very intense and the entire movie feels like that. Personally, I liked it, which makes the movie deserve that R rating. In the end, Wrath of Man, regardless of how one might look at the film, is quite unique in how it unpackage its revenge action narrative in a different way; finding Ritchie’s directorial methods proving to be quite effective in creating a cinematic tale that’s moody, brooding, and ruthlessly entertaining in one man’s answer for justice. Also as a side-note (because I no idea where to put this in my review), I do like how the film’s opening credits is sort of reminiscent of a opening for a Jason Bond film, with the usage of imagery and ambiguity); setting the stage for what is to come.
The presentation for Wrath of Man is also pretty good and delivers a well-represented background setting throughout the feature. While the setting isn’t Guy Ritchie’s most elaborate movie world he’s produced, it definitely adds to the film’s flavor of being a more gritty and realistic cinematic landscape; showing the inner-city locales and urban motifs. Even interior sets have that feeling, with Fortico Security home base location being a prime example, but in a very intricate militaristic-looking detail. Overall, I was very pleased to how the film’s “look and feel” felt throughout the movie. Thus, I have to mention that the efforts made by Martyn John (production designs), Neil Floyd (set decorations), and Stephanie Collie (costume designs) help bring Wrath of Man’s world to life, while the cinematography work by Alan Stewart is quite effective throughout. Additionally, I felt that the sound design (be it sound mixing or sound editing) was actually really good. I usually don’t mention this unless it’s important part of the techniques categories, but it’s definitely worth noting that makes the movie’s sound effective entertaining. Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by Christopher Benstead is fantastic; providing a very “mood” driven musical composition to the proceedings as well as being suspensefully bombastic when the feature reaches its action climax.
While the movie is enjoyable, Wrath of Man does falter in a few areas and have a few nitpicks of criticism within how the feature is shaped and how everything is executed. Perhaps the one that many will point out (including myself) is in its script. Penned by Ritchie as well as Ivan Atkinson, and Marn Davies, the screenplay for Wrath of Man, which again is based on the French film Le Convoyeur, feels a bit thin as the movie’s story slowly unfolds. It’s clear to what the script wants to convey within the framework of the motion picture, but it struggles to fully encompass everything; loosing track on its various characters, with many (almost “be design”) to be quite thin / stock-like. The story itself, a solid revenge arc, is good, but definitely needs more substance in how the machinations of its heroes and villains. Thus, there are parts in the film, especially in the first half, where the narrative is bit limp and stretching for time to make the feature longer. As I said, it all comes together towards the latter half and the movie definitely shines at this point, but the script for the film could’ve been that much better with a bit more “beefier” substance added.
Another major problem that the movie present is in how it’s all presented or rather its story structure. As I mentioned above, the movie story is presented in a non-traditional manner, flashing back and forth between the present and the past in various parts to tell its narrative. It’s a very unorthodox approach and one that will leave some viewers out there scratching their heads as their watching the feature from start to finish. It does fully bring it altogether, but not until its towards the end of the second act, which might cause some viewers to loose interest in the feature, which is problematic within the movie’s overall execution. Furthermore, as I said, the movie is considered a “slow burner” endeavor, slowly peeling away the story as piece to the large narrative come into place. This might be odd and / or off-putting for some, especially those were looking to see a classic Jason Statham action flick. This is sort of prevalent during the first act, with little action to entice viewers in and invest in H’s revenge. Additionally, because of this, the film’s pacing is a bit off at key points, which can distract from the task at hand of the narrative and (in general) the movie itself. As I said, Wrath of Man is more of a methodically “brooding” movie rather than just the flashy adrenaline action rush feature. Thus, those expecting something more energetic, will be upset with what Ritchie does with this film. All of this didn’t bother me as much, but I felt that the movie needs a bit of help in a few of these areas, including the story points and how certain characters are overall worked into the story and their backstory.
The cast in Wrath of Man is pretty good as all the acting talented selected do a great job in their respective roles. The downside is, however, that many of the characters (both major and minor) are a bit generic and thinly sketched. I think that is probably by design, but I felt that there could’ve been more substance added to some of characters throughout the movie. Leading the charge in the movie is actor Jason Statham, who plays the film’s lead protagonist character role of Patrick “H” Hill. Statham, who is known for his roles in The Transporter, Crank, and The Meg, has always been considered a solid action lead character, demonstrating his skilled and prowess in various fighting techniques and sequences through his film career. Thus, he’s almost a bit “typed cast”, with a few exceptions here and there (see Gnomeo & Juliet or Spy…. I loved him in that movie). Thus, it comes at no surprise why Statham would want to be attached to this project and its actually a bit different in a few areas. With the movie not being bolstered by wall-to-wall action sequences, Statham gets to play a character that’s more of “brooder”, letting his physical performance (i.e., facial expression, body movement, etc.) rather than his dialogue, which is kept to minimal. The result is something actually works, with Statham playing the part of H in a very nuance role, glaring and glowering at various characters with a very steely demeanor that evokes a lot of “brooding” mannerisms. That’s not to say that Statham’s H just stares at people or off into the distance as he handles himself quite well in the film’s action stunts and / or dramatic moments…. from when you first see him to the final scene. His character backstory is fleshed out a bit throughout the feature and, while not highly dynamic or fully well-rounded, it definitely works for the film’s story. In the end, I think that Statham was perfect for this role, and I didn’t have much complain about his character nor his performance in the role. It’s not his strongest and fan-favorite role in his career, but it is indeed a good one. He definitely makes the feature memorable…. just my opinion on that.
Other two supporting characters that are worth noting comes in the form of characters of Haiden “Bullet” Blaire and “Boy Sweat” Dave Hancock, two guards at Fortico that interact with H throughout the movie. Played by actors Holt McCallany (Sully and Lights Out) and Josh Hartnett (Pearl Harbor and Black Hawk Down), these two characters a decent amount of screen-time to make their respective characters memorable in the movie. McCallany is always as good as “seasoned” tough guy (definitely fits the part of Bullet), while Hartnett, who is great to see again since he left the Hollywood scene a few years ago, acts as the more as the cocky yet good natured person. Sadly, looking beyond McCallany and Hartnett, the rest of the guard members of the Fortico, including actress Nimah Algar (Raised by Wolves and The Virtues) as Dana, actor Tadhg Murphy (Vikings and Boy Eats Girl) as Shirley, actor Alessandro Babalola (Top Boy and Unforgotten) as Stuart, actor Rocci Williams (Don’t Breathe 2 and The Alienist) as “Hollow” Bob Martin, actor Mark Arnold (Blade Runner 2049 and Angel Has Fallen) as Super, and actor Alex Ferns (Joyeux Next and EastEnders) as Sticky John, fell flat and don’t really stand as much; finding most of these characters to be minor supporting players in the movie and nothing more. There acted well, but merely there for nuance purposes, despite a few having a handful of scenes in the spotlight. Kind of disappointment.
As for the villains of the Wrath of Man, both actor Jeffery Donovan (Burn Notice and Let Him Go) and actor Scott Eastwood (The Fate of the Furious and Pacific Rim: Uprising) give solid performances in their respective roles as former military platoon soldiers Jackson Ainsley and Jan. I do like both Donovan and Eastwood and they both evoke those villainous personas quite well in the feature, with Jackson being more of the calm, cool, and collective tactician, while Jan is more abrasive and aggressive enforcer. Sadly, as mentioned above, the characters are rather thinly sketched and there’s not much to them beyond what’s given to us (the viewers), with very little backstory given them. Plus, there characters are sort of the classic bad guy tropes (i.e., Jackson is the leader, Jan is hothead). Still, I did like Donovan and Eastwood in those roles and do what they can with the source material, with their screen presence rising above the somewhat flat script. Unfortunately, much like the Fortico guards, the rest of the team members of Jackson’s crew, including actor Deobia Oparei (Game of Thrones and Independence Day: Resurgence) as Brad, actor Laz Alonso (Fast & Furious and Avatar) as Carlos, actor Raul Castillo (Ghost Tape and Army of the Dead) as Sam, and actor Chris Reilly (Homefront and Industry) as Tom fall into the same category by being somewhat flat and generic and nothing more than henchmen. Again, all the performances are good, but there’s not much to them, which (again) is disappointing.
The rest of the characters, including actor Andy Garcia (Ocean’s Eleven and The Godfather: Part III) as FBI Agent King, actor Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan and Sherlock Holmes) as Fortico manager Terry Rossi, actor Rob Delaney (Tom and Jerry and Deadpool 2) as Fortico boss Blake Halls, and actor Eli Brown (Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists and Gossip Girl) as H’s son Dougie, and actress Eva Macklin (Brooklyn and Roadkill) as H’s former wife Jane, are minor supporting characters in the movie and, like the rest of the cast, are well-acted by the acting talents that are played them, but their characters are more supporting / background nuances to either further the narrative forward in a few places or just like stock-like characters. Lastly, there’s an odd cameo-like appearance of musician Post Malone in the movie as a robber (credited under the name “Austin Poet). His appearance in the movie is a bit odd to me and leaves a clunky impression, even though it’s just one scene. Just a distraction in my opinion.
A man of few words and letting his action speak for himself, Fortico Security new armored car driver is a man on a mission for revenge and will do anything to be in the movie Wrath of Man. Director Guy Ritchie latest film takes the classic action revenge thriller scenario and puts in a new spin on it; presenting a feature that is layered with brooding gritty and intense thrills and frame in a very unique narrative structure. While the film does falter in its script shaping and within its pacing (in its unorthodox story stacking), the movie is still quite fun and entertaining; enticing viewers in an engaging plot, which is made possible by Ritchie’s direction, a gritty revenge thriller, a solid presentation (sound and music), and its cast, especially Statham in the lead role. Personally, I liked this movie. Yes, the beginning part is a bit sluggish, and the script’s non-conventional manner is a bit perplexing (and rough around the edges), but the pay off for the film works and I enjoyed how the feature all comes together in the latter half. Heck, I would probably say that this is my favorite Guy Ritchie films of late since 2015’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Thus, my recommendation for this movie would be a solid “recommended” as it will definitely intrigue moviegoers who are looking for something different from the standard action / revenge platforms and tentpole offerings. To sum it up, Ritchie’s Wrath of Man is gritty action thriller that’s choke of full violence, intense moments, and narrative that, while confusing at times, comes together in a satisfying way for its dramatic action conclusion.