When it comes to action stars Jason Statham just has “it”. I can’t clearly define what “it” is, but you know it when you see it. It’s a healthy mix of charisma, grit, and physicality. Since Statham’s leading man breakthrough in 2002’s “The Transporter”, he has shown over and over that his anti-hero brand is more than enough to carry an action flick. Even more, he often brings a sharp wit and a surprisingly disarming charm to his usually hard-nosed characters.
That being said, you won’t see a glimmer of that sly humor or charm in his new film “Wrath of Man”. This action thriller directed, co-written, and co-produced by Guy Ritchie is darker and edgier than any of Statham’s lighter, albeit violent affairs. The film (a remake of 2004 French film “Le Convoyeur”) marks the fourth collaboration between Statham and Ritchie, their first since 2005’s “Revolver”. And it seems they already have another movie in the can that we’ll probably see sometimes in 2022.
If you break it down “Wrath of Man” is part revenge film, part heist flick, part hard-boiled crime thriller. Its time-hopping narrative is built around two interwoven stories with Statham’s character being the connecting tissue. He plays the cold, stone-faced Harry “H” Hill who we first meet as he’s interviewing for a position with Fortico Securities, an armored truck company who transports money for banks and businesses all across Los Angeles. It’s a dangerous line of work as evident by a recent robbery that resulted in two company drivers and one civilian being gunned down. Here’s the catch, the dead civilian was H’s son and now the vengeful father is determined to find out who pulled the trigger.
H gets the job and is immediately put under the wing of Bullet (Holt McCallany), a chatty seasoned driver who shows him the ropes. Later H is paired with the big-talking Boy Sweat Dave (Josh Hartnett) and immediately proves his value by single-handedly thwarting an armed robbery, killing all six of the thieves. Just like that, the other drivers learn H can carry his own weight and he’s not somebody you mess with. At the same time he’s still a mystery both to them and to us. So Ritchie jumps back in time, dedicating a chapter to unpacking H’s backstory. And then you get more time-jumping as Ritchie tells a second story about a group of disgruntled military vets (led by Jeffrey Donovan and a very good Scott Eastwood). Andy Garcia even pops up as a crime boss fittingly named The King.
All of this could have turned into an indulgent convoluted mess, but to Ritchie‘s credit he along with co-writers Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies keeps everything coherent and engaging. He still packs the movie with many of his favorite ingredients – a meaty ensemble cast, snarky dialogue, offbeat nicknames, non-linear storytelling. And to add a little extra flair Ritchie tosses in some fun and fitting chapter titles like “dark spirit” and “scorched earth”. At the same time, the macho wisecracking does wear a little thin (particularly in the first half) and there are a handful of plot holes that left me shaking my head.
Still “Wrath of Man” is an all-around solid effort from Guy Ritchie and a return (of sorts) to his earlier form. It’s also a lot different than your standard Statham beat-em-up. It trucks along with a relentlessly grim tone, never winking at the camera, and leaving none of its characters with completely clean hands. And it’s centered by Statham, whose stoic, hard-as-granite exterior fits perfectly in Ritchie’s bloody world where crime thrives and violence begets violence. “Wrath of Mine” arrives in theaters on May 7th.