Principal Cast : Jason Statham, Holt McCallany, Rocci Williams, Jeffrey Donovan, Josh Hartnett, Scott Eastwood, Andy Garcia, DeObia Opario, Laz Alonso, Raul Castillo, Chris Reilly, Eddie Marsan, Niamh Algar, Darrell D’Silva, Bab Olusanmokun, Cameron Jack, Josh Cowdery, Jason Wong.
Synopsis: A cold, mysterious figure working at a cash truck company seeks vengeance on a gang of ruthless killers who murdered his son.
Wrath Of Man sees director Guy Ritchie re-team with action star Jason Statham for the first time since 2005’s Revolver in this hard-boiled crime thriller that delivers on hard-edged violence and plenty of The Stath™ doing what he does best: laying waste to scores of faceless henchmen with quippy dread-inducing one-liners at the end of a gun. While The Stath™ does as The Stath™ does, Wrath Of Man sees a stripped-back Guy Ritchie offering a more straight-up action vehicle than is his typical fare, removing cinematic ostentation and hyperbolic smash-cuts for visceral limb-shredding gunplay and edgy, incredibly testosterone-laden brawling, told with a perfunctory style more reminiscent of a John Wick or Atomic Blonde aesthetic.
Told through the use of flashbacks to recapture plot elements, Wrath Of Man sees Statham play the mysterious H, a man on a mission to find his son’s killer at the hands of a ruthless squad of mercenaries who strike the city’s preeminent cash-truck company. He joins Fortico Security ostensibly as a driver, billeted alongside fellow employee Bullet (Holt McCallany) against the better judgement of manager Terry (Eddie Marsan), and displays a quiet implacableness when confronted with gangs of people hoping to score a quick payday. His status within the company grows, until it becomes clear he has an ulterior motive; in reality, H is himself a well-connected crime figure who has been given a pass by Federal Agent King (Andy Garcia) to hunt down those who murdered his son. He carves a swathe through the city’s underworld seeking revenge, but eventually realises that he will need to alter his identity to complete his mission. Meanwhile, the squad of truck robbers, comprised of a group of former US military operatives led by Jackson (Jeffrey Donovan), and including the vicious Jan (Scott Eastwood), are revealed as the group behind the spate of daring robberies, and a grand masterplan to rob the Fortico headquarters sees them squarely in the line of H’s fire.
It’s fair to say that Wrath of Man is the perfect vehicle for Jason Statham’s particular sense of brooding action machismo. As with most of his films, Statham delivers a jaw-clenched character of inestimable fortitude and quite cavalier ambivalence to human life; H will never be his most memorable character but it suits the actor’s ice-cold screen charisma perfectly. Together with Guy Ritchie’s penchant for criminal theatre, the film’s churning violence and ethical abandon is almost euphoric in its endeavour to elicit wanton glee in the viewer, replete with numerous satisfying hell-yeah moments and more than a few shocks to keep the plot light on its feet. Wrath of Man is a remake of the 2004 French film Le Convoyeur by director Nicolas Boukhrief, and watching it you can see exactly why Hollywood looked to the property as one to redo – the incredibly simple plot and formulaic characters are easy to understand, it’s relatively cheap to make, and the modern predisposition to making action films as hyperviolent and realistic as possible requires constant feeding. Wrath Of Man’s screenplay is equally simplistic in terms of character development and story mechanics – credit to Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies for their work, while the Ritchie-esque flourishes sprinkled throughout are easy to spot – leaving it primarily to the director and cast to sell the whole thing.
Supporting Statham in his role here is a quite decent collection of B-listers and up-and-comers, including the breathtakingly doppelganger-esque figure of Scott Eastwood, who is nigh indistinguishable in look to a younger version of his father Clint, whilst Holt McCallany, Jeffrey Donovan and Andy Garcia appear to be having a great time in roles big-and-small. You might even gasp when you realise a hirsute Josh Hartnett appears in this as well, while Eddie Marsan plays the pernickety station manager role with typical aplomb. Ritchie populates his cast with all kinds of unique and interesting actors from a visual standpoint, all of whom seem to know they’re in a Guy Ritchie film and play up to the camera as much as possible; Wrath Of Man is a “tough guy” movie, the kind of thing Charles Bronson or Lee Marvin would have done back in the day, with flinty stares and growling line delivery the exact kind of thing required for such boilerplate fiction as this. In keeping with this, Statham himself is quietly menacing here, offering few words when a bullet will do, and when required delivering some quite enjoyable “tough guy” dialogue before blowing some poor bastard’s head off. Again, it’s a role he could play in his sleep (cynics might suggest he actually does) and with old chum Ritchie behind the camera he certainly acquits himself admirably.
Wrath of Man also sees Ritchie at his most primal. Whereas films such as Sherlock Holmes or The Gentlemen contained an abundance of visual virtuosity and cinematic delight, Ritchie goes pretty much back to basics here, with a distinct lack of his typical flair. The action sequences are well filmed (Alan Stewart, DOP) and edited (kudos to cutter James Herbert), chaotic without being incomprehensible, the violence brutal and realistic without being glorified, and the plot development a straight-arrow between inciting incident and outcome. What little ostentation there is, is restrained and almost invisible to the casual viewer, blended within the growling screenplay and ferocious sound design to maximise the impact of every bullet hit and shattered limb. Chris Benstead’s appropriately action-centric score accompanies the film’s quieter moments with subtlety, whilst accentuating the more bruising and bloody moments with uber-mixed technological precision.
I had a great time with this film. It’s furiously made, well directed, solidly acted by all involved and thanks to the use of time-jumping narrative urgency from Ritchie, engaging at almost every second. Statham will never win any awards for acting but the role of H is suited entirely to his style of performance, a hard-edged and gritted-teeth character torn up by grief and a focus on revenge. It’s another successful modern action semi-classic in the vein of John Wick, Taken and more recently Nobody, a violent opus of guns, blood and vengeance writ large against a canvas of a criminal underworld seemingly hidden in plain sight. Wrath Of Man is an angry, angry movie, and wholeheartedly recommended.