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Jason Statham and Guy Ritchie’s careers kicked off at the same time, when Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels introduced the former as an action-comedy lead, and the latter as a fresh voice in cinematic storytelling. Surprisingly, it’s been more than a decade-and-a-half since these collaborators have worked together, with Wrath of Man being their big reunion film after 2005’s Revolver. That sort of wait raises certain expectations with fans, and in this particular case fans of Statham and Ritchie should have no problem strapping in for the ride, as the actor and filmmaker have reunited for a solid, R-rated action thriller.
The concept at the heart of Wrath of Man is deceptively simple, as Jason Statham’s mysterious H is introduced to us right as he’s getting a gig at an armored car company. His co-workers are skeptical about whether or not he is on the level, and throughout his rise as a badass protector among their ranks, the questions keep piling up. As the overall picture of H’s purpose and his ultimate goals become clearer, secrets are revealed, and not everyone makes it out alive.
Jason Statham knows what he’s here to do in Wrath of Man, and he delivers like a pro.
Wrath of Man is a solid, down the line, meat and potatoes Jason Statham vehicle. A remake of Nicolas Boukhrief’s Le Convoyeur, the version co-written and directed by Guy Ritchie couldn’t have been a better project for the two to reunite on. While it’s a bit darker than the action comedies they’ve worked on in the past, in including the aforementioned titles and 2000's Snatch, Statham still knows what he’s been hired to do, and he does it.
Jason Statham’s H is very much in line with previous characters he’s played, as he gets to take down the villains and wear sharp clothes while doing it. Since that roundhouse lines up with the exact sort of style Guy Ritchie loves to put into his movies, Wrath of Man sticks to the hits, and doesn’t stray too far from the path; though the largest flourish given to the film’s plot is also arguably its greatest liability.
Wrath of Man's story gets a bit jumbled, but the characters somewhat make up for it.
The narrative in the new film is non-linear, starting at a sort of midpoint and winding both backwards and forwards to the next important pivot plot point. Credit has to be given for trying to shroud Jason Statham’s H in as much secrecy as possible, but in executing this approach the story loses a bit of its punch. What could have been an escalating story of personal revenge is turned into a diagram of string and pushpins, encouraging audiences to concentrate and follow along while patiently waiting for Statham to kick some ass to play amateur detective.
The characters are among the strongest elements of Wrath Of Man, as Guy Ritchie, credited as working on the script alongside writers Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies, has brought together a group of figures that resemble a true Ritchie ensemble cast. Josh Hartnett’s Boy Sweat Dave is pretty much a prime example, as his meek and overconfident nature match his nickname – both of which are cut out for the Ritchieverse. And when it comes to Holt McCallany’s Bullet, another perfect foil for Jason Statham has been found, as his likable nature helps establish a rapport that carries quite a bit of weight throughout the film.
Though it’s a bit flawed, Wrath of Man is still a solid action thriller worth seeing on the big screen.
If Wrath of Man told its story in a more straight-forward fashion, the overall experience would have been more effective. Rather than weaving back and forth through time, Guy Ritchie and his co-writers could have nailed in the familiar components present into a slightly better result. Evaluating the movie as it is, though, the slightly wonky story and its method of unfolding isn’t a deal breaker. Rather, it’s more a minor disappointment.
While it’s unfortunate that Wrath of Man’s intricate plotting doesn’t work out in the film’s favor, that’s not to say it’s an unenjoyable experience. Guy Ritchie and Jason Statham still put on a hell of a show 16 years after their last team-up, with shootouts as fast as the dialogue, and larger than life machismo being tempered by a gruff sense of humor. And if you’re just showing up to see Statham wreck shop, you certainly won’t be disappointed when he gets to work. If you’ve missed more mature action movies, or even just want to hear some solid classic Ritchie dialogue at your local theater again, the film is a pleasant distraction, even if it could have been something greater. Nevertheless, it’s good to have you these gentlemen back at work together, and to see action back on the big screen where it truly belongs.