Raphael Georg Klopper’s review published on Letterboxd:
In the first minutes of Wrath of Man, we get to go along in a car trip in the back of a cash truck, with the drivers soon getting hold off by a heist group, taking them hostages and the money in just a few seconds. The two men end up dying, we never know anything about them outside the friendly likeable conversation they were having, nor their deaths carry any meaning or consequence, and never get any comeuppance. That’s the entire film in a nutshell!
We get to go back into the same scene twice in the film, following different perspectives of the action, the immediate shock is shared in all the versions and all of them serve to showcase the same meaning behind the heist: man’s precise actions of well orchestrated crime and violence getting people to die, and no meaning is put upon their losses, just a meaningless manslaughter caused by personal gain and no carrying for any other consequence. Oh trust me, this is a Guy Ritchie film, as much as shocking as that sounds!
I guess the mixed reaction that the movie got came as a result of exactly that, as the usual expectations given to a Ritchie film always arouse, expecting to erupt in laughter with its Pulp Fiction-esq experience filled with sharp fast-dialogues, picturesque accents, caricatured characters, a dynamic easy-going flow and comedic quips full of visual and rhythmic style; which his previous The Gentlemen served basically as a celebration of that. Everything to get here and get bewildered by beholding what’s a dramatic-driven revenge action thriller, that’s anything but easy-going fast or stylized, but still pretty darkly entertaining and engrossing to watch through.
It may not feel like a typical Ritchie film, though is packed with all of his usual trademarks still here present. From the narrative set-ups paying off at some point with eye-popping twists; the off-narration predicting certain events; the fragmented narrative full of cohesive well stitched back and forths into past and present in a constant perfect flow of events; perspective shifts that do not drop the ball on your level of griping interest in what’s unraveling. All used to create a more meticulous crafted dark tale of revenge and violence flowing inside a man’s spirit, with Ritchie bursting that onto a more mature phase of his craft that which has been taking shape since The Gentlemen, which shows him returning to his primal roots of making crime movies packed full of multifaceted narratives and layered caricatured personas, only taken on a path of almost revitalization, focused and more inspired!
Definitely the right time for him to come back and re-team his old partnership back with his old pal Jason Statham, and inadvertently end up making what’s quite easily the actor’s best film since… a real long while. And as a way to sort of compensate for the all time they hadn’t being together with Ritchie directing the cockney sharp tongued muscle-bound thug that we all love, the whole first half of the film is Statham in his most lethal tough-guy badass, heading in with a animalistic cold-hunter demeanor dominating the scene on a threatening level, in a tactical almost robotic operatic behavior. A dark f#cking spirit, even receiving the blessing of an avenging-angel of sorts in a brief nameless Andy Garcia character, that only shows up when giving H the free rains to do what he must, clear his way, and when he finally finishes it off.
All while working under an cash truck company, all full the individual memorable personalities present in the place, but not one holding a candle next to Statham’s H, while aiding the crew to move around hundreds of millions in cash in not so legal manners, and when attacked by thieves, he brakes the cold quiet persona and wreaks rampage in few seconds of sharp eye aiming, never missing a bullet and barely takes any cover. Turning the streets of L.A. becoming an wild-west stage of action, where basically the cash-trucks robberies are wagon or stagecoach heists, and at the middle of it all we got this fast-trigger-happy menace changing the course of criminal activities, going from a dark vigilante of sorts, but slowly showing a predatory menace to everything standing in his own way.
At one side is pretty much the usual acid cynical behavior for Statham action-star role, shouting stuff like “eat your own dick” and you smirk out of the pure slight sense of cheesiness out of that, but not as much sadistically entertaining like his other films and roles and way more grim, austere and with a very palpably rage swirling inside him, filled with mystery and ambiguity in his real motivations. That soon all gets answered, and your only certainty afterwards is that a lot of blood is yet to be spilled. Giving a legit Shakespearean flavor into the mix, a bit of the revenge of Hamlet mixed with the Sims of a father from King Lear, mixed with an unhinged violence taste from Titus Andronicus.
Basically turning the story into a king stepping down of his throne to deal with the matter with his own bare hands, and Statham is relishing himself in all of that given weight. Almost making the film feel like a character study of an insane mental cold bastard hungry for blood, but rightfully so. But at this point in the movie, you’re all but rooting for him to find out the killer’s identity and finally get this over with, as the usual clichéd revenge thriller will take.
But then the later hour basically restarts the film by introducing and cementing fine characters like Jackson from a surprising Jeffrey Donovan, reaching an age of playing the head of a robbers group with that old likeable dad vibe that shows humanity amidst his shady morals. And the whole robbery crew that he leads, and where you get to know their back story, motivations and individual personalities enough to actually understand and care for these guys at the slightest demeanor. All serving to later on enhance the brutality feel that comes to ahead when it’s all building up towards to explode in the finale where you’re feeling everything but entertained by the death spread that ensues with pure cold and mercilessly brutal execution, with a tactical finesse glamour in its staging, covered in cold raw blood around its edges.
Is not a Michael Mann level of shootout, despite the inspiration definitely being there, but it gets pretty darn close with some polished camera angles and gory realistic violence, walking a fine line closer to Cormac McCarthy type of violent resolution and the modern western setting with no feel of satisfaction out of the beautifully orchestrated bloodshed, all but pure discomfort and even shock – that even alludes a little to S. Craig Zahler’s snubbed masterpiece Dragged Across Concrete. And where the only possible word to describe it is awesome!
Making for a revenge punisher action thriller with a heist film aspect taken as a big supporting element, while mixing into Heat meets an Italian Poliziotteschi’s mean nature and a Western-feel to its execution-violence, melted in Michael Mann’s wild nature philosophical characters moved by inner instincts as cold deadly machines, acting cold and ambivalent to the weight of their actions. Creating a real apprehension and human massacre sense build and lurking around almost the entire film’s runtime, enhanced by Christopher Benstead epic sounding score, clearly inspired by Hildur Guðnadóttir’s soundtrack from Joker, living up to its title and being complete wrathful and mean.
This is a movie of no heroes, but also no full villains. There are cold-blooded traitors and greed-hungry ass-holes, but also fathers trying to come in peace with their individual mistakes and failures in the only way they know how. Carrying an existential thread lurking all around them, especially H that stays truthful to its operatic demeanor and barely breaks the self-centered character he creates to blend in and only get what he’s after, always looking to be calculating every move and ready to get out of any situation no matter what, and no matter the cost. Barely carrying for the people that in any other movie he would create bounds with, but barely cares for that here, even if it tries too late for that!
He just unceremoniously goes on a payback manhunt not with any spelled justification, just simply goes because is the only thing he can do. It won’t change the results of what happened to his son, nor validate the deaths his actions caused, maybe not even satisfaction, he just…does it. Because that’s what a mysterious quiet low talk badass will do if you kill someone he actually loves and it’s the only thing that shows any humanity under that cold brutal carcass – brilliantly shown in the best flashback segment of the film -, if you mess with him, you buy your one way ticket to hell.
Is Statham’s show but the cast, as always with Ritchie, is all around pretty memorably solid. Josh Hartnett in his quiet return to Hollywood status shines bright here - going from being the cocky ass-hole to the coward immature, to prove his bravery value in the finishing line, but in gut-cutting results; Holt McCallany goes from the likeable partner, with Statham’s delicious accent calling him Bullet with that big emphasis on the Ls, to later become a complete cold-blooded monster by the climax; and Scott Eastwood scaringly looking more like his father every day, and playing the complete opposite role to what his father would in his prime – a cold psycho moved by hunger of greed, with a nasty voice and big scary scar on his eyes, makes for a instantly memorable monster builded to be hate.
Is interesting how Ritchie managed to pull of such a great idea for a remake that works so well on its own, while taking the right elements from the original respecting while expanding it. Because if Nicolas Boukhrief's Le Convoyeur it was heist film placed around an everyman’s grief turning in a reckless obsession at the cost of everything, the same obsession is here, but reflected on man’s own nature, or specially…the action hero, of creating nonsensical violence. The obsession turning into a complete absent turn of morals that are wrong in their individual sense, but comprehensible on a human level.
Leading into a pathway of shock and violence that can get you off guard and make you feel unease, in an overall experience that might definitely feel too familiar, but at the same time transgressive taken the director and lead familiarly known type of films. Is not anything that will stick with you forever afterwards, but dam if it doesn’t leave a big impression on you after watching! Don’t stop bringing it Ritchie!