Remember the good old days when movies commenced with an opening credits sequence? Guy Ritchie seems to, as Wrath of Man includes one reminiscent of a James Bond picture. It serves as an immersive prelude to this revenge story starring Jason Statham. While Statham will likely never play James Bond, he’s created an onscreen persona worthy of comparison to Connery. Statham owes at least some of his success to Ritchie, who gave him his big break in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. It’s been over a decade and a half since Ritchie and Statham collaborated with Wrath of Man providing a solid reunion.
Statham plays a mysterious loner who we’ll just call H. Being a Statham character, it only makes sense that H would land a job transporting cash. In a role that probably would’ve been played by Bill Paxton in the 80s or 90s, Josh Hartnett clashes with H as fellow driver Boy Sweat Dave. H is taken under the wing of head honcho Bullet (Holt McCallany), but he doesn’t need anyone looking out for him. H establishes this when he single-handedly stops an armed robbery, much to the shock of his co-workers.
In typical trailer fashion, the advertising has done Wrath of Man little favors by giving away its second act twist. In case you’ve avoided the ads, I won’t spoil it here. All you need to know is that H has ulterior motives for signing up with the cash truck company. For its first hour or so, Wrath of Man hooks us in with the mystery surrounding H and his backstory. The film begins to drag a little when it shifts the focus to a group of criminals planning a big heist. These guys are given the spotlight too late in the picture for us to form much of a connection. Even the character who’s revealed to be linked to H feels underdeveloped. So, when these two ultimately clash, it lacks the weight the filmmakers are aiming for.
Wrath of Man nonetheless manages to stick the landing with an intense and skillfully shot climactic heist. This sequence showcases what Ritchie and Statham do best: looking badass for the sake of looking badass. With his previous film, The Gentlemen, Ritchie reignited a flame within himself that hadn’t been lit in years. Wrath of Man keeps the flame going, but it probably needed one more rewrite to reach Gentlemen territory. There are several baffling plot holes, including one regarding H’s fate. Andy Garcia is also underutilized as a mysterious figure whose role is never made clear.
The film could’ve been cut down by at least fifteen minutes. There’s a particular scene that we see play out from three different points of view. Two times was more than enough. These grievances aside, Wrath of Man is a cool action thriller that mostly delivers on the potential of its star and director. We’ve seen better from both of them, but we’ve also seen much worse in movies such as Revolver. Like H, at times it seems like they’re holding back what they’re capable of. When they go for it, though, they hit a bullseye.