Credit: Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures
Blockbuster Beat by Matt Lynch Featured Film

Wrath of Man | Guy Ritchie

May 6, 2021

Wrath of Man is a hybrid heist/revenge film that is pure fluff and littered with Ritchie idiosyncrasies, but also truly technically impressive.

Posited: Guy Ritchie is a gifted formal stylist with a terrible palate and some of the worst instincts and taste in material of a director in his weight class. Not unlike (the arguably more insipid but also even more visually dynamic) Michael Bay, he comes from the world of advertising, which makes even his attempts at restraint seem attention-seeking. Meanwhile, his sense of humor leans toward the sophomoric, he’s in love with an almost comically toxic adolescent idea of masculinity, and he manages to land incredible casts time and time again. And — with the exception of The Man from U.N.C.L.E, an exercise in pure candy pop style if ever there was one — the movies he makes are mediocre to terrible.

Which makes his latest, the clunkily-titled Wrath of Man, all the more of an anomaly. A remake of the 2004 French film Le Convoyeur (aka Cash Truck), it’s ostensibly a heist movie that bleeds into a revenge flick. But it’s so full of Ritchie’s idiosyncrasies and other assorted tics that it keeps losing its place in a thoroughly generic story; the impression is something like if you kept forgetting to use a bookmark and had to remember if you’d read a certain part already. And yet, so much of the stuff you’re here for — the corny one-liners, the gnarly violence, the gunplay, the machismo — is carried off with some honestly sturdy visual craft, however ostentatious it might be coming from an extremely rich Brit who counts as an old hand these days because he’s been around since the ’90s.

Jason Statham plays Patrick Hill (not his real name), aka H, who starts a new job at an armored car/security company that’s been the subject of a couple of unpleasant robberies lately, particularly one that opens the film, in which a couple of guards and a civilian were killed, and which is shot in a conspicuous locked-off single take entirely from inside the cab of the truck. It’s immediately clear that Hill is not only far more competent a badass than he lets on, but that something is rotten at work. Why Hill is infiltrating this particular rat’s nest and who he’s after shouldn’t take a particularly active imagination, but we won’t spoil the details. But what ought to be a straightforward crime/revenge picture is continually derailed by Ritchie’s useless messing with a flashforwards-within-flashbacks chronology, with not only chapter breaks, but a “5 Months Earlier” card followed closely by a “3 Weeks Later” one in addition to repeated returns to the same events but from slightly different perspectives. It’s like the mall heist in Jackie Brown, but without the boisterous charm, or in fact any real charm at all.

That said, there’s the aforementioned outstanding cast, all doing their respective things. Among others you’ve got Eddie Marsan as the obsequious boss, Andy Garcia as a shady Fed, Josh Hartnett playing, in what actually amounts to a twist, against type as a guy who talks a good game but has trouble walking it, and especially Jeffrey Donovan and Scott Eastwood as the heavies. Statham himself is as reliable as ever, tossing off alternating vaguely homophobic insults and broody declarations of intent to harm. And yet Ritchie excels in his downer, black-glove explications of violence. There’s a torture sequence set to a laborious, slow-metal Johnny Cash cover over here, a trip to a sex trafficker’s execution over there, and it all wraps up with a really expertly-ratcheted, very lengthy tactical shootout finale that intercuts the villains planning the heist with the execution of same, complete with everyone wearing high-end body armor that basically turns them all into video game enemy bullet sponges. This concluding spectacle — and, to a degree, the film as a whole — is exciting in a purely technical, for-heads-only way, in that you don’t give a shit about any of it, but it sure does look spectacular.