"I'll just get my gear."

Wrath of Man

WRATH OF MAN is a pretty different type of Guy Ritchie movie. It certainly shows some of his interests, his directorial chops, and his long relationship with filming Jason Statham. And okay, it also has some of that lightning quick snappy banter between the fellas, some of which I couldn’t follow at all. And it has Josh Hartnett playing a character called “Boy Sweat Dave.” I’m not sure I can picture that being in somebody else’s movie. Guy Ritchie is the Boy Sweat Dave type.

And yet this is a different style (a more calm and controlled type of flashy) and tone (less flippant, more foreboding, and even mythical) than what we expect from him. It doesn’t have freeze frames with character’s names as they’re introduced, but it does have four sections with pretentious chapter titles. A trend I very much approve of.

It’s a remake of a 2004 French film called LE CONVOYEUR (or CASH TRUCK), which I could only find on VHS with no subtitles. But this seems to me like it’s playing off of two American traditions: pulp crime novels, and movies that try to be like HEAT. I can enjoy both.

Statham plays H, a new hire at Fortico Security, an armored car service that not so long ago had two of their guards killed in a robbery. We watch H calmly and quietly go through the firearms and driving testing and training from Bullet (Holt McCallany, MONSTER TRUCKS), never excelling, but not being self-deprecating about it. We know something’s up because this is fuckin Statham in serious mode. He’s not acting like just some dude, but he’s testing like one. So he must be holding back.

And of course our hunch was right. Ritchie slowly lays out implications, then flashbacks, that form a picture of the backstory. He has a personal grudge stemming from the aforementioned robbery; it also killed his son Dougie (Eli Brown, Gossip Girl), a bystander, and he’s on an undercover mission to find the shooter and the mole inside the company. And there’s more to it than that, too.

To be honest, in the early scenes where the boys at headquarters and in the locker room are all bantering, I had trouble following what the fuck anybody was talking about. And H has some line about Impossible Meat that I think indicates he’s vegan? I’m not sure why. The point is that it didn’t matter. Don’t try to understand it. Feel it. I can get a kick out of Guy Ritchie stuff, but it’s once the Guy Ritchier stuff is out of the way that this one really digs its claws in.

The verification that this is early-Deckard-Shaw Statham and not hooked-up-with-Hobbs Statham comes early on the job when their car gets held up and previously tough-talking Boy Sweat instantly melts into a mumbling mess. H ignores all protocol and, with the precision, composure and economy of movement that movies use as shorthand for “this guy is a professional,” rescues Bullet and executes all the thieves. In a funny touch that explains how one guard could suffer numerous armed robbery attempts, H is assigned therapy and desk duty but the idiot CEO overrides it because he thinks he’s awesome. But the movie is still novelistic enough to skip over a few months before the next incident. Obviously this shit doesn’t happen every day.

The opening scene, the robbery gone wrong that kicks off the whole story, has a cool directorial touch: the camera stays in the back of the truck the whole time, watching the guards from behind, sharing their perspective through the windshield as a construction crew blocks them in, hearing the threatening voice over the radio, seeing the thieves as they cut into the side of the truck, hearing gunshots outside and panicked discussion over the radio. But as the movie progresses the story slowly pulls out wider to show us more context and more points-of-view – even ditching H for a while to tell us who the armed robbers are, like a Parker novel – and when we eventually return to that robbery we’re on the outside of the truck this time and we have way more information. We know what the thieves are thinking, which one of them fucked up, why H’s son was there, and why he got shot.

Two other sorta show-offy directorial touches I like:

#1: When we see the robbery through H’s perspective he runs in after his son and gets shot, and as he lays on the ground he stares at the shooter’s eyes, which completely fill the screen. We know those eyes, because it looks like a Sergio Leone closeup of Clint Eastwood’s eyes. Because it’s Clint’s son Scott Eastwood (TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D, FURY, SUICIDE SQUAD, THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS).

#2: Ainsley (Jeffrey Donovan, CHANGELING, J. EDGAR, SICARIO), the ringleader of the thieves because he was their general in Afghanistan, has a loving wife and daughter who must have no clue what he’s doing, and he acts normal and ushers them out the door the morning before the risky climactic Black Friday score. The camera stays on his back as he hugs his wife extra long and tells her how much he loves her, and we see her face over his shoulder, wondering for a second if something is up, then letting it go and heading to work. Seconds later the ladies are out the door, the house is quiet, and the general’s on his phone calling in that he’s ready to start.

Ainsley and Eastwood’s character Jan end up sort of at odds – the guy who, yes, is a thief but is disciplined and loves his family and seems to sincerely want to provide for his men who he feels deserve more for what they did in combat, vs. the young arrogant guy who’s too trigger happy and greedy, and spends his money on flashy shit against the orders of Ainsley, who knows that could call too much attention to them and take them all down. I have historically had a soft spot for Eastwood just because he looks so much like his dad (but shorter), and here he’s got the western beard and everything. But this character plays into the more negative view some people have of him, which I think is a smart idea. He’s all smirking and muscly, he’s got an amazing place in an old building, and he wears a bathrobe and pours himself a glass of Scotch – you really want to see this fucker go down.

This is a strong movie – full of thrills, and some laughs, but grimmer and meaner than you might expect. It’s stylish and well-directed but neither in a trendy way or as a throwback. It shows that Ritchie and Statham are both still very capable of doing interesting work without exactly repeating what they’ve done before. So, good news – Statham and Ritchie (and Hartnett) already shot another movie together, a spy movie called FIVE EYES. Statham’s character is named Orson Fortune. I’ll be there.

 

This entry was posted on Monday, September 13th, 2021 at 6:55 am and is filed under Action, Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

14 Responses to “Wrath of Man”

  1. My favourite Guy Ritchie film in quite some time, and also the first time I’ve ever appreciated Eastwood Jr – I agree that it was smart to play into the negative view of him.

    The original LE CONVOYEUR is really worth seeing: it’s much more stripped down, lean and mean (Ritchie has added a whole bunch of stuff) with great performances from Albert Dupontel and Jean Dujardin (both better known in France as comedians, though neither is remotely funny here).

    If you have a multi-region player, there’s a Blu-ray with English subtitles available from French amazon (region B) (I’m pretty sure the DVD doesn’t have subtitles though)

  2. I really liked this movie, in part because of all the Guy Ritchie-ness of it and also because I’m a sucker for anything that attempts to mimic HEAT. But I really couldn’t get past the annoying little mistake that Ainsley sends his wife away and kids off to school on Black Friday, which is the day after Thanksgiving and thus a school holiday! Maybe Ritchie isn’t aware of the US school calendar…

  3. This was my first theater going experience when stuff opened up. It was a great way to kick it off.

  4. This movie is so frickin’ good.

  5. I agree that, outside of a kinda blah ending, this is almost certainly Ritchie’s overall best, employing his usual bag of tricks precisely and economically to tell a real story for a change.

    I gotta disagree about Leastwood, though. If he can’t do anything interesting with a meaty opportunity like the psycho turncoat character in a Guy Ritchie movie, I think it’s safe to say that he can’t do anything interesting, period. He’s fine in the movie because all he has to do is be himself and you’ll feel all the emotions his character is supposed to make you feel, but he brings nothing to the role. Every time he gets cast in anything, a dynamic unknown loses a chance for a potential breakout performance. Seriously, has anybody EVER been excited to see this pilowcase full of vanilla pudding show up onscreen? Something needs to be done about it.

  6. Geesh I completely forgot that this even came out. Definitely gonna have to give it a watch. I found the trailer captivating as fuck and this review is a pretty good endorsement as well.

  7. I really liked this but I can’t get behind the idea that Eastwood did a good job. I was probably biased going in by already thinking he sucked, but I’d like to think if he really did a good job he could have turned me around and he didn’t, I still think he sucks and want him to stop being in movies I watch.

    An actor I *did* like, though, was Darrell D’Silva. He was the white-haired bearded guy, Jason Statham’s right hand man from the flashbacks. I’d never heard of him before, I guess he’s mostly in foreign stuff, but he’s got a great look, a great voice, and he had some fun stuff to play and I thought he killed it. (The ‘right-hand guy to the crime boss’ is almost always a great role in these Ritchie movies.) He should be better known and in more good stuff.

  8. SPOILERS ahead. Please make a note of it.

    I liked this one a lot when I caught it in the theater a few months ago, for mostly all the reasons cited above. What really stuck with me though were a couple of very…odd storytelling decisions in the second half.

    1) After an hour’s worth of explaining who H really is, why he’s engaging in all this subterfuge with the company, who it is he’s really after, and what THOSE guys are up to, the movie whittles itself down to the question of whether H can find the mole before the big robbery occurs. Once that was established, I settled in for what I assumed would be another 25 minutes of detective work, cat-and-mouse business, double crosses and so forth, only to find that, one or two scenes later, the mole just spontaneously reveals himself to H while they’re driving around. It makes sense in the grand scheme of things – it’s a motivated reveal and has consequences for the rest of the plot – but it just happens in such a desultory and nonchalant way that I honestly was wondering if it was supposed to be a dream sequence for a minute.

    2) Is my memory failing, or did Boy Sweat Dave get killed off off-screen? It seemed as though he was being built up for some kind of grand purpose to the story, and I couldn’t quite believe that he was dispatched with a relative lack of fanfare.

    Clearly Ritchie (& co) were having fun deflating our (or at least my) expectations in this one, and I feel like there are even some other examples of this that I’m forgetting. I don’t know if there’s any greater purpose to that than he just thought it would be a fun way to tell the story. I’ve found myself brooding over that aspect of the movie since I saw it.

  9. This and nobody are the best movies I saw 2021.
    Great movie, great atmosphere, GREAT music and Statham at his Stathamest.

  10. Loved this movie! After seeing Richie faff about in Arthurian Fantasies and dreadful Disney Live Action remakes, it’s nice to see him back on familiar turf which means Tough Guys Talking Trash In a Twisty Plot with Flashes of Violence. Except that in the intervening years, Statham has ascended the ranks to be a Bona Fide Action Star and thus WRATH OF MAN is equally happy being a Stath Action Vehicle, letting him do what he does best and this is the version of him I like the most; the steely, menacing dispenser of righteous Punishment as opposed to watering it down by shoe-horning him into Comedic Buddy Routines a la THE EXPENDABLES and HOBBS & SHAW. He’s not Ryan Reynolds.

    Regarding Eastwood Jr, I agree the dude’s a Cipher but I also wonder if we’re not pre-disposed to judging him twice as harshly thanks to THAT surname and him having inherited Papa’s looks including that Famous Squint. Comparatively, John David Washington gets less of a tough time, although having seen his latest BECKETT, I gotta say, there are scenes fraught with tension and emotion where JDW just drops the ball, scenes that the late Chadwick Boseman or Daniel Kaaluya could have aced in their sleep.

    In short, Nepotism sucks, except when a Kirk Douglas gives you a Michael and Jon Voight gifts the world Angelina Jolie.

  11. I can only imagine the pressure on young Eastwood to do a good job. But someone like Sergio Leone doesn’t turn up everyday and offer a struggling actor a breakthrough role.

    Loved WRATH OF MAN. But I have to say I would have loved a London setting for it.

  12. JTS: D’Silva WAS good and it’s almost certainly my failing that every time he was on screen I was thinking “they couldn’t get Jeffrey Dean Morgan so they got this guy instead”.

  13. Man oh man, The Wrath of Man!

  14. Way better than I expected. Good flick, watched it last night and I bet I forget it all in a week. But it was enjoyable.

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