"Wrath of Man" is a tough-guy action-film featuring characters with names like Bullet, Hollow Bob and Boy Sweat Dave, who all talk in witty sound-bites and phrases typically found in movies but not in real life. In other words, of course it's directed by Guy Ritchie, the director of other like movies such as "Snatch," "RocknRolla," "Revolver" and "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels."
But instead of simply existing as a stylized heist movie and finding comfort in that, the convoluted plot of "Wrath of Man" turns this into an over-long, shoot-em-up that devolves into mindlessness the further it goes along.
If you've seen one Jason Statham movie, you've seen 'em all, and perhaps that's the point. Here he plays the strong, silent type...a hardened killer known as "H," who takes a job as a cash truck driver for a company that has recently had one of its trucks heisted, and its two drivers killed in the process. Bullet (Holt McCallany) is the top dog at the company who takes H in and teaches him the ropes, while Boy Sweat Dave (Josh Hartnett, effectively playing against type) is the cocky one that gives H a hard time, but who is quick to buckle when put under any kind of pressure.
But it's clear H is not who or what he seems. His motivations for taking the job become clear, and the film uses the initial heist robbery as a connection point to reveal different aspects of different characters along the way. For example, we see the heist through the eyes of the drivers in the truck who get killed, but we also see it eventually from a nearby witness as well as from those that pulled off the heist. But as the movie folds out and then back in over itself, it becomes disjointed with no clear person to cheer on. Exactly nobody in this movie is worthy of such adoration, so on some level, you root for everyone to lose, which isn't exactly a fun undertaking.
Involved in some manner or another is the seedy businessman, Agent King (Andy Garcia), and a crew of ex-military (including actors Chris Reilly and Jeffrey Donovan) that have a real stake in the sequence of events.
The draw of the film is its twisty nature, and at each reveal the audience is supposed to be impressed. Even if you were to excuse some of the nonsensical and implausible plot points, the action is generic and uninspired as well.
"Wrath of Man" also has a real disdain for its characters. Some, like Josh Hartnett's character, or the sole female in the truck company, Dana (Niamh Algar), are established and then completely abandoned. Others, like Garcia's Agent King, is underused and under-cooked. And it's not like Statham himself brings much depth to the table. Sure, he's an effective and mesmerizing action star, in the same way that Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal were back in the 80s and 90s. But his character is so tough in this one that he is infallible. The bad guys, when they finally get there chance, of course don't aim for the head nor do they ensure that he's dead. Textbook lame action movie.
There is a better, tighter and more effective film buried somewhere within "Wrath of Man," but if it wants to challenge its audience intellectually, it needs to aim a bit higher up the brow.
Genre: Action, Thriller.
Run Time: 1 hour 58 minutes.
Starring: Jason Statham, Holt McCallany, Josh Hartnett, Rocci Williams, Jeffrey Donovan, Andy Garcia.
Directed by Guy Ritchie ("The Gentleman," "Aladdin (2019)," "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword," "RocknRolla," "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels").
"Wrath of Man" is available on Friday, May 7th, 2021.
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