Wrath of Man

Wrath of Man ★★★

No question, I have a positive visceral reaction to this. Ritchie is cooking in this crimescape with filmmaking that brings brooding, tense momentum to the world of armoured cash-truck heists. His brisk moving camera and great action compositions produce a steady, winning action vibe. Although there is technical and atmospheric influence from Michael Mann and action influence from the likes of John Woo, Ritchie's own kinetic pacing and narrative chaptering certainly slot the film nicely into his own filmography.

Despite the velocity with which Ritchie films sometimes move, one common element of narrative speed, which is notably absent here is Ritchie's dialog. Holt McCallany is a perfect entry into Ritchie's style of crime film. He's a tough hombre who sounds great spewing alpha male exposition. However, he's a supporting player here, and he's about as talky-talk as the film gets. He delivers enough of the tough-guy male-bonding dialog to remind you that it's a Ritchie film. Jason Statham, the mysterious protagonist named 'H', says so little he's nearly mute. By making him such a quiet character, it does two things of note. It gives the film's tone a notable sense of gravity--or if not that, seriousness at least. Also, it gives Statham an entirely different type of character to play. He's not out of his depth here, but he and Ritchie are clearly collaborating on a different type of Statham entity. I guess I'm realizing now the amount and type of energy that Ritchie gets from the spoken word in some of his films. I suppose you don't notice such a thing until it's gone.

I like Statham as ‘H’. I perceive him as a limited performer (much like the Rock), and this project gives him something familiar yet different because he can go about his business a wee bit differently here. He’s a quiet, blank slate of a figure who does practically nothing verbally. He avoids his regular charm, his dry wit, and his gift for taking lines equivalent to "you have got to be f*&#ing kidding me" and upgrading them into something sounding of aristocratic ass-kicking elegance. I wouldn't say that he’s working out his acting muscle, but it’s a different performance, for sure.

Ultimately, though, WRATH OF MAN, despite its action, its heist, and its vibe, has an empty core. It’s a fast, enjoyable treat, but it’s regrettably hollow, not unlike a chocolate Eater bunny. I had a great time watching it--I love the heists, the action, and Ritchie's dancing around with character-perspective chapters and nonlinear storytelling--but moments after the credits ended, nothing seemed to stick. WRATH OF MAN is ultimately of a story of revenge. In this regard, if that's where you're going to hang your hat, this is desperately undercooked. H's backstory, particularly with his family, is cold and businesslike. It's underdeveloped, in my view, and lacking of the warmth or connection needed to enact a revenge.

On a side note, WRATH OF MAN has a few problems with plot point and character loose ends. Why do Eddie Marsan's and Josh Hartnett's characters have nice little character moments when the film has no interest in their fates? There's a peculiar treatment of other characters, too.  With the bloodiness of the film on the whole, why does Ritchie not show certain killshots? For the sake of spoilers, I'll leave it be, but the camera seems to 'just miss' the dispatching of certain characters.

And then there's an entirely unsatisfying postscript of a climactic showdown. Presumably, Statham's survival of the previous climax makes sense (it doesn't); presumably, the film's emerging villain has the gravitas (within the script and within the actor's performance) for the final standoff to zing (it doesn't); and presumably, we're left with something satisfying for H's character arc such as closure, satisfaction, self-discovery, or change (we aren't).

I really liked WRATH OF MAN while watching, but the more I think about, it's based strictly on the style and enthusiasm of the filmmaking. It's a complete exercise in style over substance. As I write this, I'm wracking my brain to find a depth of character, plot, or theme to elevate this a few ticks. Unlike some of Ritchie's other style-over-substance efforts, there's no satisfaction in getting to the end of this with H.

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