Looking back, the first harbinger of today’s upside down world was clearly Guy Ritchie making a five star movie (The Gentlemen) in January 2020. After asking us to sit through two decades of awful Cockney gangster pastiche, David Beckham cameos and art-house violence, Ritchie having a blazing run of cinematic form seemed as unlikely as anything coming from Mars, and yet it’s still happening. Wrath of Man follows up The Gentleman’s serio-comic stylings with a more sober revenge Saturday Night Special, but it’s still a considerable jump up in quality from duffers like Revolver, The Man from Uncle and the hilariously awful King Arthur.
Jason Statham is an angry man, and it’s not just male pattern baldness that’s infusing his ire; as H, he’s a tough man in a tough world. H gets a job at a LA armoured car security company, managing to pass the entrance tests in weeks; the anxious management are still reeling from the recent robbery recorded with a single camera in the opening scene. H, however, is no push-over, and is quite prepared to mow down anyone who gets in his way, winning the respect of his crew. In fact, the bad guys run a mile when H removes his mask, so as Hong-Kong Phooey once asked, who IS the super-hero?
Wrath of Man is most interesting until H’s motivations are revealed as being the most predicable imaginable, and even then, it’s a slick stop-the-heist drama. Ritchie wisely ditches most of his comedy gags; he’s remaking a French thriller from 2016, Cash Truck by Nicholas Boukhrief. Statham is a great performer who has a steady stream of sub-standard, unworthy action vehicles to his name, but the dour, internal role of H suits him down to the ground. And there’s able support from a real rogues gallery of character actors, Eddie Marsan, Josh Hartnett, Scott Eastwood, Holt McCallany, Jeffrey Donovan, Post Malone and Andy Garcia. The backstreet LA locations are grimy and authentic, and this being a super-sweary Ritchie film, everone’s a c*** or a c*** depending on their mood.
Despite Ritchie and Statham being box-office in the UK, Wrath of Man’s summer release was cancelled a la The Green Knight when Amazon offered them some fast cashola to bypass cinemas for an exclusive Prime release from Dec 10th; more evidence that films are more likely to find a large audience by being bought for streaming channels rather attempting to sell them to miserly audience as individual purchases. Such deals have probably saved a number of films, production companies and even studios while the box-office is so uncertain; it’s proved a face-saving safety net during the pandemic.
Wrath of Man is a slick and effective urban action thriller, one of the best for Statham and Ritchie, who look set to reteam on mad-looking spy-spoof Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre, for which a trailer is provided below as a bonus. In fact, Ritchie seems to developing quite a rep company, with Marsan, Hartnett and Statham all returning, plus MVP Hugh Grant and even Aubrey Plaza. It looks a hoot, and if so, will complete a remarkable three-picture hat-trick sequence of good films for a director who seemed to have completely gone off the rails. Wrath of Man is no game-changer, but in a world where tough, salty thriller are rare, it’s a welcome thick-ear crime-film that’s not to be sniffed at.