By: John M Jerva
THE REVIEW: In this crazy, topsy-turvy world of ours, there are some undeniable certainties. Politicians will never agree on anything, my Cleveland Indians will never win a World Series in my lifetime, pictures of kittens and babies will always be cuter than hell and Jason Statham is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most badass, ultra-cool, swagger oozing action stars the planet has ever seen. When The Stath (a nickname I have affectionately given him) walks into a room, any room for that matter, women will want him and men will want to be like him. I mistakingly made a joke to my wife a while back that I’m the furthest thing from gay but even I would marry the British ass kicker. That’s a joke I regret to this day and one that my wife never lets me forget. I’m sure you all have fond memories of when you first laid eyes on Statham and for me it was The One with Jet Li. I’m not gonna lie…that role didn’t really make an impression on me and it wasn’t until I saw him in his now classic The Transporter back in 2002 that I became a lifelong die hard fan of his. I remember it like it was yesterday as I sat in my chair in the theater (you remember those, right?) and I was treated to some of the most kick ass action sequences I have ever seen. Statham owned the screen and the role of Frank Martin from the get go and from there the rest is history as they say.
After I watched that film, I immediately went back and watched Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels as well as Snatch which are the films that put Statham on people’s radar and while those roles weren’t action drenched like The Transporter, I still was enamored with The Stath and we all have director Guy Ritchie to thank as he was the one that directed those movies and introduced the world to the one and only you know who.
Now some fifteen plus years later, Statham and Ritchie have reunited for the ulta-violent action, crime-thriller Wrath of Man and while this film isn’t the quirky, dark humored fun little British films those earlier films were, this movie is its own beast all together. Ritchie, who has been toying with tentpole pictures like Sherlock Holmes and King Arthur Legend of the Sword, has returned to the crime thriller that has made him a household name and this time Ritchie switches gears and goes for broke with a blistering, punch to the gut, bloody and brutal tour de force that is essentially Statham’s crowning achievement. Wrath of Man will not be mistaken for the duo’s earlier efforts but that’s OK as this is something completely different. This isn’t a fun movie but instead it’s a cinematic version of blunt force trauma with Statham in complete cruise control and having one hell of a time as he systematically carves a path of carnage and destruction on his way to one of the best finales ever to grace a Statham starring vehicle.
Ritchie essentially takes what would have been your average revenge thriller and totally turns it on its head by doing things that you don’t see in traditional firepower and fisticuffs filled action pics. Sure, there is all the mayhem any serious action fan can handle but Ritchie also glosses it over with wonderous story telling and deep characterization that grace the film. Sure this is a Statham joint, and make no mistake it is, but Ritchie spends ample time on everyone else and gives them all their chance to shine in the narrative.
Wrath of Man is an english language remake of the French film Le Convoyeur (2004) or Cash Truck and here we are introduced to the mysterious and methodical character known as H (Statham). H enlists for a job at an armored car company that is tasked with transporting millions of dollars every week in LA and after a string of hits, the bossman Terry (Eddie Marsan) decides to increase the level of security and employs H who is teamed with Bullet (Holt McAllany) and Boy Sweat Dave (Josh Hartnett) to help transport the loot and hopefully get it from point A to point B without incident. But, of course, there is incident and when their car is hit, Statham’s H bursts out into a veritable one man army as he takes out the criminals with steely eyed profiecency. It is here that his comrades begin to suspect that there is more to H then meets the eye.
As H’s colleagues begin to investigate who he really is, the audience is immersed into what is driving H’s character and what his endgame is. If you’ve seen the trailers then you know what I’m talking about but if you haven’t then I’ll save you from spoilers. Now on a mission of pure, unadulterated vengeance, H must figure out who he can trust and as this all leads to the ultimate finale where bullets and blood grace the screen like it’s free.
Like I said, this could have been a standard shoot ’em up, revenge pic but with Ritchie at the helm, he mixes things up and derails the narrative making it fresh and inviting for the genre. Ritchie also switches things up as he makes us get to know the bad guys as well as the supposed good guys and I say that because here there are no white hats and black hats just shades of gray. Even Statham’s H isn’t good by the standard defintion and he radiates anti-hero to the extreme as the only thing that seperates him from the men he’s going after is that he does have what resembles a certain code that he lives by. That doesn’t stop him from doing heinous things to heinous people though. Make no mistake, H is a as cold-blooded, if not more, then the robbers he wants to put down for good.
This collaboration between Ritchie and Statham is entirely different then their past films as now there are no quirky scenes of humor and levity coupled with the visual flair that the director is known for. Instead, we are given a hard and unforgiving look at LA with the ugliest set of characters you will ever meet and there is no happiness and feel good times here. Aside from some choice one liners from Statham, this is a humorless film that is ugly and repulsive and I mean that in the best way possible. Wrath of Man channels the mood and visuals like the classics of the day including The French Connection and Serpico. We usually say that they don’t make films like that anymore but Ritchie and Statham have proven us wrong and this crime thriller is exhibit A.
I’ve always championed for Statham as I feel that he is one of this era’s most celebrated action stars and even when he takes his lumps from critics and fans when they say that he plays the same character in every film, I feel that this is part of his charm. Statham has mixed it up on occasion in comedies and dramas but for what it’s worth, when you see his name attached to a project, you know what you’re in for and fans couldn’t be any happier.
Now who would I be if I didn’t talk about the action the movie has to offer. I’m gonna say it straight and tell you that Wrath of Man isn’t the action drenched spectacle the trailers would lead you to believe it is as there are truly only two real extended action set pieces in the entire movie. The first being at the beginning which is important to the narrative and the second being the balls out, blood flowing bullet riddled finale which takes place over the course of twenty plus minutes. In between, the film is peppered with smaller altercations and violence but it’s the ending that is the true worthy price of admission. I will also say that Ritchie gives us more firepower then fisticuffs and fans looking to see Statham perform his patented throwdowns will surely be disappointed but as that’s just nitpicking, the action is ramped up and in your face with audience members feeling every shot that is fired. Some time from now, when we talk about our favorite Statham action sequences, the climax to this film will definitely be at the top of the list. It’s that good and it’s that effective.
Wrath of Man is a Statham film but one that is also an ensemble piece where the supporting players all have something to do here. McAllanay and Hartnett get a measurable amount of screentime and offer up more than just what is the norm and it was refreshing to see Burn Notice’s Jeffrey Donovan get his dues as well. Andy Garcia has a smaller role but whether he’s on screen for two minutes or ninety, he always brings the heaping doses of gravitas to each and every role he does. Scott Eastwood, who turned in his finest performance in The Outpost, once again proves that he is Clint’s son and delivers an impressive supporting nod. Ritchie gives us time to know the others besides our star and he manages to make you feel something even for the ones that will be at the unfortunate end of a Statham ass whooping.
Overall, Wrath of Man won’t be for everyone and I doubt that it will generate huge box office returns but it should and hopefully with releases still anemic due to the pandemic, this one will shine brighter then if things were normal. This is Statham’s finest hour and I, for one, cannot wait to see their next outing that they are working on as Ritchie is essentially the one director that can give us a different side to Statham. The movie is a bone jarring ride from start to finish and the action is the exclamation point to the deep drama that is at hand. In a year where theatrical action films have been hard to come by, Wrath of Man is here to give us action fans what we have been waiting for…an unapologetic suckerpunch to the head that will make you sweat, bleed and beg for more. This is essential Statham at his bloody and brutal, stoic best!