Loaded with wince-inducing bad dialogue and great action sequences in equal measure, Guy Ritchie’s new thriller WRATH OF MAN is a mixed bag that delivers some killer moments.
Jason Statham is at his silent but deadly best as H, a modern take on Eastwood’s “man with no name”. He’s connected, lethal and very pissed off.
In one of Ritchie’s best moves, the film opens with an armored car heist seen from only one, very limited angle, a fixed camera pointing at the front passenger seat of the vehicle. What we see is a well-planned, ferocious takedown of the truck. We also hear a lot of confusion and gunfire. Then the film rolls into a terrific main title sequence on par with Daniel Kleinmann’s work on the most recent Bond films.
H applies for work at the armored car company, where he quickly impresses his trainer Bullet (Holt McCallany from Netflix’s “Manhunter” series). They work out of a modern and seemingly impenetrable security base. Josh Hartnett (Pearl Harbor) is back on the big screen as Boy Sweat Dave, a trigger happy guard. Scott Eastwood is excellent as Jan, the Alpha Male of the squad and Jeffrey Donovan (Sicario) brings menace as Jackson.
Before his first month is out, H is employee of the decade, single handedly taking down any and all that attempt to penetrate his vehicle. Statham is excellent in these moments, topping Liam Neeson’s “special set of skills” as he destroys any and all attackers.
Ritchie slowly unpeels the real reason H has taken on the job.
We begin to see different camera angles of the heist that opened the film and each one reveals more about H’s very personal mission of revenge.
Statham’s hate and grief is explosive when he has a weapon in his hand, but his moments with his ex-wife show a broken man out of words. He’s only got violence left in him and when it goes off, Ritchie (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, The Gentlemen) stages the action with reliable style. He also makes great use of the Los Angeles locations, moving between the glitz of downtown and the grit of industrial LA.
My only major complaint is that the dialogue in the first half hour of the film feels like it was written by aliens trying to imitate human behavior. The locker room talk is painfully bad. The screenplay credits five different writers, but maybe a sixth should have brought a red pen for all the “here’s how tough guys in America talk” floundering.
Less talk, more action.
When Ritchie sticks to that mantra, or keeps his camera focuses on Statham, McCallany, Eastwood and Donovan, it’s a thrilling blast.
WRATH OF MAN gets a B- teetering toward a C but kept above by sheer momentum and its satisfying finale.