I probably wasn’t in the best position to see writer/director Guy Ritchie’s new film, Wrath of Man. Out of all of Ritchie’s movies, I’ve only seen The Gentlemen, the Sherlock Holmes duology, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., andKing Arthur. I’ve still never gotten around to the films that made him a name like Snatch or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. And apart from the Fast & Furious movies, Jason Statham is mostly a blind spot for me as well. Mid-budget action movies just aren’t always my thing. But I like movies and I (generally) like movie theaters, so I ventured out to see Wrath of Man despite not knowing too much about the people making it.
All of this resulted in me having a middling response to the movie. A lot of what I’ve seen about it is that Ritchie is getting away from his typical tone, and based on the movies of his I’ve seen, that’s certainly true. There is no humor here. Some of the characters make jokes at each other’s expense, but the intent isn’t to make the audience laugh as in something like Sherlock Holmes. The film is very dark tonally and there’s a pervasive feeling of dread throughout the entire film. This has a lot to do with the score by Chris Benstead. There’s one particular refrain from the score that feels like it’s playing over about two thirds of the movie, and it drills the feeling of despair further and further down in your psyche.
The film is about a man known only as H (Statham), who starts a new position at a cash truck company that transports millions of dollars around Los Angeles. But we don’t know anything about H, other than the fact that he’s mysterious and that there has to be more to him than meets the eye.
It’s a simple and not unusual premise for an action movie like this, but the film’s narrative manages to be both simple and complex at the same time. It starts off at a specific point before it jumps ahead a few weeks, and then a few months, before it scoots back a few months to events prior to the beginning. This is all ultimately easy enough to follow, but it’s certainly jarring while you’re in the midst of it.
Now the part of the movie that could make it or break it, depending on the person, is the action. This is where I have immense respect for Ritchie and how he is able to craft something so visually original and engaging. The direction, cinematography, and story all work together closely to craft what I think is exactly the movie that Ritchie wanted to make. It’s brutal, unforgiving, and incredibly visceral. It’s the meat on the bones that caused me to fall somewhere in the middle on this movie. What could have been dinner at a high-end steak house with just some more character and thematic work ended up being what you get at Texas Roadhouse. It’s a good option if you’re looking for something better than your run-of-the-mill steak, but it’s not quite as great as it could be.
I give this movie props for being as enticing as it is. I was certainly on the edge of my seat the whole time, but I wasn’t enjoying myself, nor did I feel like I was getting anything substantive out of it. It has the typical themes of crime and revenge, but it’s not really interested in exploring them. Wrath of Man will work for a lot of people because it perfectly executes what it’s attempting to do. That attempt just isn’t really for me.