The 400-Word Review: Wrath of Man
By Sean Collier
May 8, 2021
There’s an interesting push-and-pull to “Wrath of Man.” Its director, Guy Ritchie, is showing off — camera moves that are dynamic and sometimes just plain odd, an ambitious structure of gradual revelations, a tone that feels like a bitter Bond. Meanwhile, the film’s star, Jason Statham, is as restrained as possible — saying little, intoning less, keeping everything so close to the chest that there are scenes where you don’t realize he’s there.
If the aim is to embody stillness — quiet rage, given the title — in a sea of chaos, then “Wrath of Man” is a success.
The film opens with a gripping long take, as we watch an armored-car robbery from an askew angle inside the vehicle. Mundane work turns to threats and deafening violence in a hurry. With no further explanation, we switch to the offices of the armored-car company some time later; H (Statham) is applying for a guard position, and is taken through a series of training exercises and introductions. This company moves mountains of cash, he’s told — leading to the fatal robbery we saw before the credits. (To go on with plot would be to deny “Wrath of Man” the slow revelations that propel it.)
In long stretches, “Wrath of Man” unfolds like a video game. We learn the general mechanics of H’s new job, then face a mild challenge (with a brief supporting appearance from Post Malone as a small-time crook), then build to more difficult missions. Statham’s walking cypher helps with this feeling; it’s easy to identify with a deliberately blank slate, lending the film an almost first-person aspect. You’ll feel like the quest for vengeance is yours, watching your avatar work through it; at the very least, you’ll find it easy to turn your mind off and follow along.
That’s useful, because we shouldn’t think too deeply about the implications of all this gunplay. One of the subtitles that separates segments of “Wrath of Man” reads “Scorched Earth,” as H maims or kills dozens en route to satisfaction. As with many revenge flicks, it’s best not to consider the moral issues presented — to do so would make it harder to justify the journey.
Fortunately, Statham is not asking you to think about it. There’s little to think about, even as Ritchie bobs and weaves around him. “Wrath of Man” is ultimately a simple, if somber and violent, tale.
My Rating: 7/10
“Wrath of Man” is playing in theaters. If you have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, consider attending an outdoor cinema.