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Wrath of Man

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by Matt Anderson

published May 7, 2021

Guy Ritchie slims down the style in this straight-on action caper.

Scorched Earth

At its core, Wrath of Man is a revenge flick. Saying it’s a Jason Statham revenge flick sounds almost oxymoronic, but there’s a back story that drives his character’s actions — and he’s a character who’s not entirely what he presents himself to be. This isn’t “stretch” material for Statham, but he is good at his game.

It’s a pretty straightforward story — a remake of a 2004 French movie called Le Convoyeur (Cash Truck) — surrounding a new recruit at a security truck company. As part of the hiring process, Patrick Hill (Statham, The Fate of the Furious) needs to pass a few tests: fitness, target practice and performance under pressure. He needs to score a 70% to get the job. The subtlety of his sharpshooting is lost on his trainer. Actually, the overall precision of his performance is overlooked: he scores precisely a 70%.

And so it is Patrick (call him “H,” in keeping with all the armored guard personnel having code names) joins the forces at Fortico in Los Angeles.

Bullet the Blue Sky

Guy Ritchie’s movies typically feature a lot of visual flair, quick cuts and some signature camera moves. Lately, he’s been shaking it up. He went full Disney in the live action version of Aladdin and that was followed by a complete 180: the gritty pot action-comedy The Gentlemen.

Here, the stylistic choices feature — as expected — some slick cinematography and a non-linear story structure that helps create a sense of mystery around H, his background and his ulterior motives. But, overall, the effect is a self-restrained Ritchie who’s focused on creating a densely packed atmosphere of pure tension.

Aiding and abetting in that mission is the movie’s score, composed by Christopher Benstead, who appears to be a new Ritchie favorite, having previously collaborated on both Aladdin and The Gentlemen. It’s a great, brooding score that ratchets up the tension and amplifies the action.

The end game focuses on Black Friday. A group of lost-soul war veterans have banded together in a crime spree. Of course, there’s always a loose cannon or two in a group of that ilk, and this one’s no different. The actions of a previous heist come home to roost on that day, when their target isn’t simply one or two individual cash trucks, but instead is Fortico’s Depot, where all the trucks return with the loot of the day.

A Warrior’s Spirit

As the story barrels toward that ultimate of heists, with a cash haul anticipated to be in excess of $150 million, a palpable sense of anxiety mounts.

H himself is hardly an angel in this battle against some ruthless demons (who, on the side, still manage blissful, fun-loving family lives with wives, children and the usual social get-togethers). But, as the story unfolds, H takes on a certain mythos all his own. It harks back to the fine early days of Chuck Norris and movies like Lone Wolf McQuade. H is unstoppable and at the least can be credited with playing a fine game of possum when necessary.

As simple as the story is, it unfolds in an engaging fashion.

During one sequence in which the planning of the Depot heist — with hand-drawn visuals on a dining table and toy cars playing out the action — merges with the unfolding of the actual event, it becomes painfully clear Ritchie has a knack for this kind of stuff. He makes it look all too easy.

The simple fact that Wrath of Man builds such a forceful atmosphere in the end ultimately cracks the movie’s simple veneer. Much like H’s recruitment tests at Fortico, Ritchie hits the marks with a precision that can easily go unappreciated.