Let me apologize in advance when I say I’m not really familiar with Guy Ritchie’s real body of work. I’ve watched his more “mainstream” films like the Sherlock Holmes films with Robert Downey Jr., The Man from UNCLE with Henry Cavill and *shudder* the live-action Aladdin with Will Smith as the Genie. I know about those films but I always got the feeling it was just a job to him in those movies. I never got to the meat and bones of Guy Ritchie’s films like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, which are just a couple of the films where he made his name.
Well, that all changed when I got to watch Wrath of Man, starring Jason Statham. This was the first real Guy Ritchie film I saw that had the elements he’s known for: an antihero, a seedy but stylish underworld of crime and some kind of code of honor among the criminals. The big question would be if I liked Wrath of Man and the answer to that would be an unequivocal “yes” but with some caveats.
By the way, this review with be a SPOILER FREE review. It kind of has to be as, while it may seem like a straightforward movie, there are most than just a few twists and turns here and revealing any of them would be a disservice to the story. So, yeah. SPOILER FREE review here!
Wrath of Man is about an seemingly unassuming man nicknamed H. He gets a job as a guard for an armored car security company. When one of the cars is robbed, H coldheartedly kills the robbers and is hailed a hero by the security company. It turns out H an ulterior motive for joining the security company as, months ago, his son was killed during an armored car robbery. His goal is to find the crew who murdered his son.
That’s the base plot but there’s a little more to it as, honestly, the story would be paper-thin if it was just H living his life and taking down thieves throughout the film’s 119-minute runtime. This does mean there are a few additional plot points which do feel tacked on. Some of them, such as H’s life before joining the armored car company and showing us the backstory robbers and why they decided to hit what specific trucks. Others feel more like red herrings and scenes focusing on the other guards don’t really add all that much to the plot.
Another sticking point for me was the backstage politicking in the security company. As it is kind of a secondary plot point of sorts and this is a SPOILER FREE review, I won’t get into the details but it does send mixed messages on whether it’s a good idea to follow the proper protocols or go gung-ho when it benefits the company. The movie seems to both applaud and poo-poo both lines of thought. Maybe I’m just reading too much into the film by thinking it’s trying to tell us something about society or something like that but I just found it perplexing as I couldn’t figure it out.
Wrath of Man isn’t told in a straightforward manner as it does a lot of flashbacks to tell H’s story and, strangely enough, the thieves’ motives. While I did appreciate Guy Ritchie giving us the background for each of them, one story, H’s, is done really well and the thieves not so much. With H, I completely understand his need for vengeance for his son’s death, I didn’t get the same feeling for the thieves. It honestly felt kind of shoved in during the latter half. It’s not forced or anything like that but their story comes out of nowhere. You also don’t really feel their plight like you do with H. You understand why their doing it but you don’t really feel their justified in their actions. It’s still a good story and it’s very interesting you get to see things told from a different perspective. I just wish there was a better balance between them.
The acting is just adequate for what it is. Everyone does act like caricatures as they all emphasize a specific character trait and then amplify that to 11. Jason Statham is, well, Jason Statham. He just seems to play the same character in all the movies I see him in. He’s the gruff, no-nonsense action man and, since he does portray the role well, I can’t really say it’s a bad thing.
The rest of the security personnel do come off as stereotypes, though. You got the tough talking but cowardly guy. There’s the veteran who wants to show H the ropes. You get the drill. I can’t complain too much because each of them was entertaining in their own way. They had individual personalities, which is not something I can say for the most of the thieves. The exceptions would be the leader of the group and the young hothead. Besides those two, all of them are just straight-faced military types, which made it difficult to really feel anything for them. They basically copy and pasted the same character 3 times to fill out the crew. It actually made me not care if anything did happen to them.
Wrath of Man is not as action packed as I thought it would be. A lot of the film’s runtime is dedicated to character progression as I mentioned earlier so not a lot of time was given to the action. What ones that we do get, however, are excellently crafted. They’re bloody and visceral but I am kind of disappointed it’s mostly gunplay and not actually fighting. The final action setpiece does deserve special mention. It roughly accounts for around the last 1/3 of Wrath of Man’s runtime, if I were to guess, and involves practically everyone on both sides. I thought it was worth the price of admission, at least.
Ultimately, I am recommending you go watch Wrath of Man. It’s not exactly the best action movie I’ve seen and isn’t the only movie to use different perspectives to tell a story. There is, however, a layer of creativity and style which I could sink my teeth into. If this is the real Guy Ritchie, then color me intrigued and I really should watch his other stuff more often.
Have you seen Wrath of Man? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!