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PLOT: The latest hire (Jason Statham) at a cash truck company turns out to be wildly proficient at foiling robberies – but it quickly becomes clear there’s more to him than meets the eye.
REVIEW: After years spent toiling on massive Hollywood blockbusters like Sherlock Holmes, Aladdin and would-be franchise starters like the underrated Man From U.N.C.L.E. and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Guy Ritchie’s taken a step back, opting to make a series of lower budget, but still wildly ambitious, films that skew more closely to the R-rated flicks that made him a household name. His last movie, The Gentlemen, was a worldwide hit, and now he’s back with one of his most idiosyncratic films ever – WRATH OF MAN.
In some ways, this is similar to his misbegotten Revolver, albeit far more successful in pretty much every way. It eschews his cheeky humor for a darker, almost operatic tale complete with chapter breaks, a complex non-linear structure, and a tailor-made role for star Jason Statham, marking their first film together since that one.
In Wrath of Man, Statham plays H, a new security guard at a cash truck company staffed by a collection of characters so hyper-macho they all use nick-names like “Bullet”, “Hollow Bob”, and most hilariously “Boy Sweat”. The company he works for is routinely hit, and during one such attack H dispatches the attackers methodically, saving his colleagues and impressing the cash truck company’s president, played by Catastrophe’s Rob Delany. At this point, the flashbacks kick in proving that H is far from what he seems, with the trailers revealing that he’s on a mission of vengeance after a job gone awry took the life of his son.
Statham plays to type here, with H completely invincible. He never loses a fight and dispatches his adversaries so methodically it almost feels Steven Seagal-like until Ritchie starts to peel back the layers of the character like an onion. The film is loaded with wall-to-wall hyper machismo, but in some ways, this feels almost like a satire with Eddie Marsan as the harried supervisor at the cash truck company the only one who wonders whether Statham is more of a psychopath than a superhero. Wrath of Man is based on a French film called Le Convoyeur or rather Cash Truck. It’s more of an ensemble than you’d think as opposed to being a straight-ahead action vehicle for Statham. At one point, the film circles back to portray a gang of thieves that are war vets, being led by Jeffrey Donovan’s character. Former soldiers, they’ve all been saddled with menial jobs. They decide to use their skills to take down scores, giving this a Heat vibe at times, although thematically it’s probably closer to Den of Thieves – albeit better. Scott Eastwood is the crew’s trigger-happy hothead, a solid change of pace for an actor often dismissed as a pretty boy.
The rest of Statham’s cash truck crew also get a lot of material to chew on, with Holt McCallaney as Bullet, the affable old pro, whereas Josh Hartnett, in an impressive turn, is the team tough guy who turns out to be anything but once shit goes down. Raised by Wolves breakout Niamh Algar is the team’s sole female member, who, like the guys, adopts a hyper-macho persona to fit in. It all builds up to a massive third act action sequence that’s probably the best pure action filmmaking Ritchie’s ever done. There’s even a bit of a satiric bent with all the cash truck employees suddenly overcome with this machismo that results in an all-out blood bath that’s impressive to behold.
All that aside, Wrath of Man is an impressive piece of work from Ritchie that, likely, will get a mixed reaction as some will dismiss it as a quickie actioner. Thematically, I think there’s more going on here than meets the eye, and I’m curious as to how Ritchie’s gonna top himself with his next Statham team-up, Five Eyes. While its a touch lengthy at two hours, Ritchie makes the most of the extended running time, fleshing out the ensemble. Action fans will have to wait a bit for the hardcore carnage to kick in, but the third act is well worth it.