Wrath of Man is a homecoming of sorts, Jason Statham’s first film since 2005’s Revolver with Guy Ritchie, the director with whom he started his career with the one-two punch of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Snatch (2000). An adaptation of a 2004 French film, Le convoyeur, the reunion between an auteur of ultra-violence and his stoic muse is a diverting wallow in high body count cinema.
Ritchie is well past the era when his films were inventive and as darkly funny as they were bloody, but he can still produce a satisfying (if ridiculous) thriller. This one begins with the suspense meter already set at 11 with a high-octane action sequence set in the streets of Los Angeles that introduces a faceless heist gang with at least one trigger-happy member. From there, it develops into the story of H (Statham), a new British employee at a Southern California armored car company who barely passes his gun qualification only to show exactly how deadly his aim is when a shipment he is guarding comes under fire. He clearly is not the average schlub he claims to be (as if his reserved demeanor and six-pack abs didn’t already give that away).
Eventually Wrath of Man settles into a three-pronged story. There is the origin story of H defining who he is, really, and why he wanted a job far below his particular skill set. There is the story of the criminal gang that includes war vets Jackson (Burn Notice‘s Jeffrey Donovan) and wild card Jan (Scott Eastwood), who seem to be operating out of the notion that because they served their country, the world now owes them. And there is the armored car company where absurd nicknames like Bullet (Mindhunter‘s Holt McCallany), Boy Sweat Dave (Josh Hartnett), and Hollow Bob (Rocci Williams) abound to substitute for anyone having a distinct personality.
To Ritchie’s credit, he keeps things moving and puts the “thrill” in thriller, acts of extravagant brutality bursting forth at regular intervals. One area where he and co-screenwriters Marn Davies and Ivan Atkinson fall short is on creating three-dimensional characters. H comes closest, thanks to Statham’s truculent charm and more fully realized motivation for H’s actions.
That the entire plot rests on one very big coincidence makes the whole movie vaguely farcical (although never humorous). But as vicious time waters go, Wrath of Man fills the bill for suspenseful, if superficial entertainment. It’s the cinematic equivalent of junk food, nothing but empty calories, but satisfying a certain urge for mindless, savage amusement. – Pam Grady