A remake of Nicolas Boukhrief’s 2004 French film “Le Convoyeur,” “Wrath of Man,” now playing in theatres and coming soon to VOD, is a revenge/heist flick that sees director Guy Ritchie reunited with his trademarked tricky storytelling style, Jason Statham and the ruthless violence that made his early movies such eye poppers.
Statham plays “’H’, like in bomb,” a man of few words with a mysterious past. Big surprise there. They should call him Gazpacho because he is the coolest of cool cucumbers. No matter what, this guy’s pulse rate never rises above 50 beats per minute.
When we first meet him, he takes a job as a security guard for Fortico, a Los Angeles armored car company. A recent robbery left three people dead and made the surviving guards edgy and uneasy. “Do you have any idea how dangerous this job can be?” a coworker named Boy Sweat Dave (Josh Hartnett) asks him. “We ain’t the predator, we’re the prey.”
When some very bad people attempt to rob one of the company’s cash trucks “H” reveals a special set of skills to the shock and awe of his co-workers. “It doesn’t feel right,” says security guard Bullet (Holt McCallany). “It’s like he wants the trucks to get hit.”
As the bodies pile up “H’s” lethal past is exposed and it becomes clear that he didn’t take the gig at the armored car company simply because he needed a week to week pay cheque. “I can do in two weeks,” “H” says to the shadowy Agent King (Andy Garcia), “what you wish you could do in twenty years.”
Told on a broken timeline and sectioned-off into chapters with names like “Bad, Animals, Bad” and “Scorched Earth,” the movie’s plot can be boiled down to one line. “I do bear a grudge,” “H” says, summing up the film’s raison d’etre as bullets fly and bodies pile up. A nihilistic story about revenge decorated with a tense heist subplot, it’s a riff on Statham’s earlier work in which he usually played either Character #1, a “loner with a past who must protect a loved one,” or Character #2, the “loner with a past who must protect a youthful innocent.”
Here he shakes things up by showing a disregard for the lives of some while avenging the loss of a loved one. Gone is the jokey Statham of “Spy” and his over-the-top “Fast and Furious” work. This is a back-to-basics performance that sees him settle on one facial expression, as though his chiseled face is encased in amber, to convey the character’s one deadly motive. The taciturn thing has worked for him before and it works well here. “H” is no laughing matter. Danger follows him around, and Statham’s coiled spring performance, no matter how basic, suggests that ultra-violence could erupt at any moment. It gives the movie much of its edge as Ritchie navigates the grim but stylish goings-on.
Are there plot holes? Yes. I can’t go into them without giving the story away but let’s just say “H’s” resilience is impressive.
Somewhere buried deep in the gunplay there is an elegance to “Wrath of Man.” Ritchie’s tough-talking film is tautly crafted, and, for those expecting “Snatch” style editing tricks, quite restrained.
The editing, not the violence.
Shot through a hail of bullets, the movie builds to a tense “Heat” style climax that doesn’t waste time or ammo. The jittery atmosphere is amped up by an angrily effective score from composer Chris Benstead.
On the downside, Ritchie’s taste for macho posturing doesn’t add much to the film’s early scenes. There are barely any female characters, save for Niamh Algar’s security guard Dana and assorted wife characters, and the hard-boiled dialogue between the often men borders on parody.
“Wrath of Man” is bleak and the characters are all, at best, anti-heroes, but for those with a taste for adrenaline pumping action set pieces, “Wrath of Man” delivers.