This Guy Ritchie and Jason Statham film is sadly underappreciated
Wrath of Man is director Guy Ritchie’s fourth film with Jason Statham, but it’s considered underrated. What makes this action thriller stand out? Wrath of Man is a 2021 action thriller directed by Guy Ritchie, but the film has the blueprint of a hard-boiled 1970s picture in which characters are stern, ruthless, cold-blooded, and vulgar. Jason Statham stars as a man called H, who becomes an armored truck guard for a security company called Fortico. H’s true intentions are slowly revealed as the film goes back and forth from the past to the present.
For an old-fashioned heist action film released in theaters during a pandemic, Ritchie’s feature had a modest critical reception, as well as a low but respectable box office run. However, the film was mostly overlooked due to similarities with other movies involving the theme of revenge. Despite this, there are qualities that make Ritchie and Statham’s fourth collaboration special.
Guy Ritchie’s crime films, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, placed Jason Statham on the map, while The Transporter and The Expendables franchises solidified the British actor as an action star. In Wrath of Man, Statham’s protagonist, H, is reminiscent of a Clint Eastwood character who only speaks when necessary and is all serious business in nearly every scene. There isn’t a lot of action in this film, but when H takes down his enemies, he is precise and lethal in his marksmanship.
As H, Statham portrays an intriguing character because his identity isn’t obvious at the start of the film. When he takes the job as an armored truck guard, he appears a bit rusty as a marksman and a driver, barely passing his training qualifications. However, when H later expertly takes down a group of thieves (led by singer Post Malone in a brief role), it’s easy to tell that all of his actions are calculated, and that he knows how to react quickly in tense situations.
H’s stern and quiet demeanor make him appear to be an undercover cop, but it’s eventually revealed that H is in fact a crime lord named Mason Hargreaves who goes undercover as a truck guard to search for the robber who killed his son Dougie. The reveal shows that H is a man of moral principle, an anti-hero who displays a combination of ruthlessness and compassion. H leads his own gang, searching and interrogating other members of organized crime to find his man, but when those methods don’t work, he decides to go undercover. While H is cold-blooded, he kills only when he must, sparing those who aren’t a threat to him by giving them cash or freeing young women from traffickers.
As a filmmaker, Guy Ritchie is always engaging, especially when it comes to his crime thrillers, which contain a combination of drama and comedy, along with gritty characters, brutal violence, and plenty of foul language. Ritchie also films his action with a mix of rapid and slow-motion sequences to demonstrate the intensity of the characters and the danger they go through. Many of these elements are included in Wrath of Man, although there’s barely any comedy, despite some dark humor. One example is Josh Hartnett as an armored truck guard who acts tough in front of his colleagues, but then freaks out during life-and-death scenarios.
This is one of Ritchie’s darkest films due to its bleaker story and hard-edged characters who each have their own motivations. The back-and-forth timeline (which Ritchie has relied on before) is effective in this feature to show H’s revenge story as well as the robber (and his crew) responsible for Dougie’s death. H and his gang are tough, but so are the robbers (ex-soldiers who fought in Afghanistan). These criminals plan their heists carefully and have a lot of weaponry and resources to succeed (along with a mole who works with Fortico Security).
Ritchie also relies more on long takes this time around, especially when focusing on the major truck heist at the beginning of the film. The heist is first shown from the perspective of the security guards commandeering the truck. They casually talk about coffee and the old truck, and then are attacked by the robbers with smoke bombs. The money is stolen from the truck and the guards are killed, along with a young innocent bystander. When the heist is shown from H’s point of view later on, it is revealed that the innocent kid shot to death is Dougie.
The shuffled-up timeline and various viewpoints of the heist serve the plot in terms of showing H’s emotional moment when he witnesses the murder of Dougie and the robber who pulled the trigger, along with the band of crooks and their planning and training to prepare for the job. The action sequences mostly consist of shootouts (plenty of headshots), along with a couple of fistfights and knife kills, which are all done in an entertainingly bloody fashion.
While Statham has full command of this film, the supporting players are also appealing. Scott Eastwood (son of the legendary actor and director) portrays Jan as a treacherous, cocky, and cold-blooded robber with attitude and gusto. Holt McCallany (best known for Fight Club and Mindhunter) is a truck guard called Bullet who acts friendly towards H and looks like a nice buffed-up guy, but becomes a mischievous character towards the film’s climax. Jeffrey Donovan (who currently stars in the revival of Law & Order) is Jackson, a serious and calculating leader of robbers who are all hungry for more money. H’s primary henchman, Mike (Darrell D’Silva), is a character with limited screen time, but he is a gangster devoted to helping his boss while also feeling that the entire situation is too brutal for him to handle.
Ritchie often uses upbeat music in his films, but the score in this movie by Christopher Benstead is sad, dramatic, and tragic, especially with the use of violins, in expressing H’s pain and striving for vengeance. Wrath of Man may be a predictable feature that many audiences don’t necessarily go to the theaters for anymore, but Ritchie and Statham have delivered a heist and revenge picture that’s expertly crafted and entertaining for hard-boiled and old-school action fans.
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