Movie Review: The Wrath of Man
An armored car heist forms the bloody backdrop of a predictable action movie that packs more than gunplay and mano-a-mano combat into its magazine. The Wrath of Man also fumbles with manly friendships, family bonds and female affection — but for all the extra writing, it’s Jason Statham’s pitbull-like screen presence that keeps us watching.
The Wrath of Man
Starring: Jason Statham,
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Running time: 1 hr 59 mins
Opening May 25, 2021 in select theatres and VOD
By Katherine Monk
You know the pandemic has taken its toll when you realize it’s been two years since the last Jason Statham film unfurled in theatres. Yup. The last time we saw the fuzzy and rugged pate of Britain’s most celebrated tough guy was in 2019, when Hobbs and Shaw pulled tire-squealing donuts and created many more at the box-office behind the number 7 — with a cumulative worldwide ‘cume’ of over $759 million.
Two years and trillions of unsold popcorn kernels later, we’re not the only ones ready for a hit of Statham to the system. The industry as a whole needs a shot of Jason Statham to keep the studios in the pink — not in the red — and the Wrath of Man is just what the money doctor ordered. In fact, the movie feels like it was crafted by the god of greenbacks himself because money sits at the very heart of the film’s central theme.
We’re surrounded by cash from the moment the movie opens in an armored car — in the midst of an take-down at gunpoint. The guards are murdered, and the gunmen make off with bagfuls of loot — leaving a hole in the staff rolls of Fortico Armored car services. Fortunately, they get a new employee by the name of Hill (Statham), or, as he’s soon dubbed “H” by the nickname-loving trainer — who calls himself “Bullet” (Holt McCallany).
Locker room handles such as Bullet, H, Boy Sweat and Hollow Bob are just some of the nicknames that pop through the air like stray gunfire because this is a Guy Ritchie movie. Manly nicknames are part of the Ritchie shtick, along with predictable gunplay, badass zingers and a zany dose of sexual kink — just for the sake of novelty. For instance, the butch trainer named “Bullet” is a gay character without shame, throwing a concussion grenade into what is, otherwise, a predictable heist movie from the sawed-off Ritchie muzzle.
The central location is the armored car depot which moves millions of dollars a day, and attracts all kinds of sinister attention. It’s just a matter of time before a group of bandits attempts to take over the depot on the biggest day of the year: Black Friday. Before the big caper is even planned, however, we go on a backward voyage through time to understand a bit more of H — the armed guard who, on his first day at work, takes out a bunch of bad guys by himself.
H has a thick history, and it explains why he’s so good with a gun and his bare hands, but there’s more to him than a background in special ops. He’s a family man, and without unveiling his prime motivation, let’s just say H has a score to settle — and there’s no room for failure.
Sure, it’s a predictable plot from the testosterone-soaked mind of Guy, and it often feels like a self-indulgent cartoon designed to redeem the loner male psyche through violence and deprivation. But for all its blunt swordplay, there’s still a steely edge to the denouement because after close to a quarter century together, Ritchie and Statham share a brand of shorthand. Statham has become Ritchie’s visual translator, articulating pent up emotions through unfettered physicality.
Sure, it’s a predictable plot from the testosterone-soaked mind of Guy, and it often feels like a self-indulgent cartoon designed to redeem the loner male psyche through violence and deprivation. But for all its blunt swordplay, there’s still a steely edge to the denouement…
Statham’s acting is a function of his muscles, his jawline and his human pitbull screen presence, qualities Ritchie exploits to perfection. This allows the two of them to fly over the perfunctory action bits and focus on the violent flourishes that define the Ritchie oeuvre. Or, as one character says, “let the painter paint.” Ritchie uses blood and guts violence as his paint, and Statham is the brush — a thick bristled hunk of man who carries so much energy on screen, he can cover just about any scene in a dark pigment of testosterone.
More importantly, he flirts with — but never falls victim to — his own cliche the way Schwarzenegger did. This is partly because Statham always has a half-wink cocked in his pocket along with a knuckle sandwich. He takes his characters seriously, and he can sell them, cheesy lines and all — without betraying the fourth wall. He can stay inside the character box without sacrificing sincerity or slicing through the plot’s throbbing jugular.
The Wrath of Man was tailor-made for his talents, and though it often feels a big baggy in the seams as it straddles a few timelines and offers a few more characters than we needed (Hello Andy Garcia! What are you doing here?) — it does zip up snug in all the right places, ensuring we get the heist movie we’ve been craving, and Ritchie’s manliness behind the camera is never questioned.
Main image (above): Jason Statham as Hill in Guy Ritchie’s Wrath of Man, courtesy of MGM, Elevation Pictures.
THE EX-PRESS, May 25, 2021