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VOD Review: Wrath of Man

May 25, 2021

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

The opening scene of Wrath of Man, the latest action film from director Guy Ritchie, feels like somewhat of a departure for the usually hyper-stylized filmmaker. The tense, deliberately paced sequence follows a pair of security guards having their cash truck violently hijacked by armed, masked assailants.

But there are none of his usual quick cuts, with the scene instead unfolding in a single take, shot entirely from inside the back of the truck. It’s the restraint that Ritchie shows in this sequence that makes it interesting, letting us know this will be a slight departure from the more hyperactive style seen in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., his Sherlock Holmes films, and his live action Aladdin remake.

The kineticism and humour of Ritchie’s filmmaking has been replaced by something more grim and grounded, and while the film – for better or for worse – lacks some of his fingerprints, it also allows him to show a slightly different side of himself. It does get a bit flashier as it goes along, with Ritchie staging large scale action sequences and shootouts, and even revisiting this opening scene from different angles, employing a few of the showier edits and camera moves his films are known for.

But there are also these moments when Ritchie chooses longer takes that keep the camera at more of a distance. While this decidedly darker and more detached approach feels like Ritchie trying something a bit different, i.e. aping more of a Michael Mann style, it also makes Wrath of Man feel slightly more generic than, say, the director’s more self-aware earlier crime films and his last, more comedic movie The Gentleman.

This film notably serves as the fourth collaboration between Ritchie and star Jason Statham, and their first since Revolver in 2005. Statham stars as Patrick Hill, a mysterious man who gets a job working for an armoured truck company that transports millions of dollars in cash. Fresh on the job, Hill, who is given the nickname “H” by his colleague Bullet (Holt McCallany), ends up thwarting an attempted hijacking, handily taking down several armed robbers trying to steal from their truck. While H is lauded as a hero by the company, his expert handling of the situation also causes his co-worker Boy Sweat Dave (Josh Hartnett) to question his training and background.

More of the plot is revealed in the trailer, but I’m going to leave it at that, because the film is built in a way that keeps things vague at first and keeps revealing more information as it goes along. While the film itself is built around a heist and revenge plot that isn’t exactly fresh, there is a level of invention to how Wrath of Man is assembled, with the film unfolding through a fractured narrative that keeps revisiting certain events from different vantage points. This makes what is essentially a pretty basic action flick somewhat more interesting, and allows for several twists and turns that a more straight-forward storytelling approach would have denied.

The film is actually a remake of the 2004 French thriller Le Convoyeur, with Ritchie transplanting the action to Los Angeles. While I haven’t seen the original, so I can’t say how the two compare, Wrath of Man leans into its down and dirty LA aesthetic, taking us into the city’s dark underbelly of organized crime. As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t an action comedy like many of Ritchie’s previous films. It’s a mix of straight action and crime drama, and at times I did wish this somewhat po-faced film was having a bit more fun with itself.

The screenplay, which Ritchie co-wrote with Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies, supplies its mostly interchangeable characters with dialogue that basically consists of inane locker room banter, and the macho posturing between the characters does gets somewhat tiresome. But the film’s action sequences are competently staged and fairly engaging to watch, including a climactic heist that is broken down in planning and execution, and Statham carries the film with a decent performance. The result is a fine if ultimately somewhat generic action movie.

Wrath of Man was released in select theatres where open on May 7th, and is now available to rent on Premium Video On Demand (PVOD) as of May 25th.

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