When you hear the name Guy Ritchie, the director responsible for films such as “The Gentlemen,” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” and “Sherlock Holmes,” you conjure a certain image and style. You’re guaranteed action, slow-motion, captivating camera angles that pull you into the film, music and editing to blow your mind, and a wry sense of humor to top it off. And when you think Jason Statham, you know you’re in for a bloody good time as he charms the audience with his sarky smirk that nearly breaks the fourth wall. Apparently, aliens must have invaded and now inhabit both Statham and Ritchie’s mind and body because “Wrath of Man” doesn’t resemble any of what I just described after the first fifteen minutes of the film.
The story is a stereotypical revenge movie starring Statham as H, a mysterious armored car driver who has been hired by a company who has experienced not only multiple armed robberies, but the death of two of its employees. Bullet (Holt McCallany) takes H under his wing to train the new recruit only to find that H quickly becomes the hero as he takes down the murderous gangs who try to rob his truck. And the repetition of this scenario is what takes place for the first hour of the film. I’d like to say that the plot thickens, but in all honesty, there’s not enough substance to turn this thin and tasteless broth into anything but salty water.
The narrative at the one hour mark attempts to add intrigue and interest as it introduces a new set of characters, but this attempt just takes us out of what had happened for the first 60 minutes of the film. Learning—duh—that H isn’t who he says he is and his reasons for becoming a new driver sets up the story to plunge even deeper into the bloody abyss as he seeks revenge. And somehow, I’m still not sure why, the FBI is involved not to stop H but to help him. Taking time to mull this over to make sense just isn’t worth it.
While the first few minutes of the film had promise of what I love about Ritchie’s movies—the music, the editing, the style—and Statham’s magnetism, these elements quickly vanished into thin air much like the substance of the film. After witnessing the first robbery, murders, and H going through his training to become a driver, he’s introduced to the crews. The dialogue within the company of primarily men hit me like a tidal wave of toxic masculinity making them all appear like primal animals ready to pounce on the weak or injured at any moment. And then the lines uttered by the actors become disgustingly offensive. As one driver described an older female bank teller in response to seeing H, he said, “She slid off her seat,” … “Theres juice in that old raisin yet.” Was this at all necessary to let us know who these men are? No. In fact, all this does is drive us away from subjecting ourselves any further to this trash.
If you continue to watch “Wrath of Man,” you’ll find that the acting and dialogue among the cast doesn’t get any better. Forcing the words from their mouths, we hear monotone delivery of lines such as, “Boredom’s more dangerous than bullets.” I think that was supposed to be menacing, but it was sadly comedic much like Josh Hartnett’s delivery of his lines as Dave, the seasoned veteran with a tough exterior who’s afraid of his own shadow. Hartnett’s response was laughable as he attempted to appear scared of the gunmen robbing his truck. The examples go on and on with dialogue and delivery making this a miserable experience.
And then there’s Statham. An actor who helps make the “Fast & Furious” franchise palatable, but here he phones in his performance as H. Yes, he’s supposed to be mysterious, but flat as a pancake is a better description. There is absolutely no affect whatsoever throughout the entire film. He is a bad guy —the better of the bad guys—but there is no sense of connection with this man even after we understand his reasons for revenge. This element gets dropped on us much too late in the game. Not even Jason Statham can save the day or the film.
What “Wrath of Man” lacks in story, it makes up for in special effects. If you enjoy repetitive explosions, gun fights, and brains blowing out of people’s heads, this is the film for you. And speaking of repetitive, the musical score is comprised of six low notes to help us understand the impending doom. (Thanks, I needed that.) Downloading a piano keyboard app to figure out which six notes were used proved to be more entertaining and thought-provoking than any of the film.