Wrath of Man
Guy Ritchie's efforts don't prevent this film from becoming a forgettable crime-action flick
I’ve finally been able to return to the theater. After getting fully vaccinated, I felt safe to go back to the dark halls of my local movie theater and enjoy the surround sound, huge screen, and shared space with fellow cinephiles that I have longed for through this devastating pandemic. Even if one experiences a mediocre movie, the power of seeing a film in a cinema is incomparable to watching it at home with the best TV or sound set-up. You simply don’t feel the action or music reverberate through your body or enjoy a joke as when you experience it with strangers. The film industry, and specifically the distribution side, is undergoing great seismic changes, and one only hopes that by the end of it the cinema experience will either remain or become enhanced, and not be abandoned for the trendy streamers.
Wrath of Man (2021) is the remake of the French film Cash Truck (2004), and follows a mysterious protagonist named H (Jason Statham) who begins work at an armored truck company. The company has suffered robberies and deaths of their employees on the road, but H soon proves to be a skilled and heroic guard who might be harboring a hidden objective.
Wrath of Man is the newest film from Guy Ritchie, who is really ratcheting up his production pipeline. The British director is averaging a film a year for the last four years and is simultaneously in post-production of a new film, and pre-production of a spin-off series of his hit The Gentlemen (2019). Wrath of Man seems to follow the trend of The Gentlemen of falling back to the crime/heist genre of Ritchie’s prime. However, this newest film is a far cry from Ritchie’s best.
Gone is the wry humor than made Ritchie’s Snatch (2000) and even The Gentlemen such entertaining watches. The grimness of Wrath of Man takes away from the fun and original perspective that could have been had. Statham has already shown a rather impressive comedic muscle in Spy () and in the Fast and Furious franchise, and yet he seems to be boxed-in to the serious roles of his past. That’s not to say that Statham can’t shine, in a rather subtle performance he’s able to transmit an inner storm that his character is going through with the simple fire and flick of his eyes.
Wrath of Man is structured is a Rashomon (1950)-like way. There are ostensible three main acts that lead to the same scene being played out, only having different build-ups and perspectives each time. Instead of playing around with the reliability of each narrator and is Kurosawa’s film, Ritchie utilizes this technique to slowly unravel the mystery of our lead man and his motivations. This decision works both for and against the film. By having a curious structure, the otherwise by-the-numbers crime plot is shaken up and given an intriguing glean. However, by abruptly stopping the narrative and jumping back multiple times, the pace of the film is violently uneven. This makes it hard for viewers to attach themselves to the journey of a specific character, especially since we largely abandon H’s progress for a large portion of the latter half. As such while the finale’s action and tension work adequately, you don’t have the emotional stakes that perhaps Ritchie was aiming for. Instead, you simply smirk at Statham reveling in his action scenes.
Ritchie is able to bring about his signature testosterone tone and feel to the film, but it begs the question of whether playing these aspects seriously (instead of the comedy of Snatch or The Gentlemen) is the right play. The casual homophobia and misogyny espoused in the first act of the film don’t sit well in current times with regards to building up a likeability for supporting characters, and the resort of giving characters a family for them to appear three-dimensional is the lazy ploy that Michael Bay has practically turned into a cliché. Ritchie had cut his teeth with witty dialogue and narratives to make his characters and story stand-out, but this is simply nowhere to be found in Wrath of Man. The lines seem to have been written by an auto-generating computer, and there is nary a memorable scene or sequence that you haven’t previously seen in a better film.
As a result, Wrath of Man is a rather mediocre and forgettable entry in Ritchie’s latest work. With the rhythm of production that he is undergoing, it is inevitable that there will be some duds in his filmography, but one only hopes that this is simply a bump on the road, and not a sign of creative fatigue.