Released: 29th April
Seen: 5th November
Guy Ritchie is one of those directors who can be a lot of fun when he really wants to be, presenting an over the top world of blokey blokes doing obscene amounts of violence to each other while yelling as many assorted curse words as they can imagine in thick English accents. When he’s at his best, he creates great things like The Gentlemen, a rip roaring grand old time that I still regularly think about to this day (especially Fletcher, one of the best characters Guy Ritchie has ever created and one of the best performances Hugh Grant will ever give in his life). When he’s at his worst, he phones in absolute garbage like Aladdin, which is still a pale, painful imitation of a classic film that didn’t need a remake. So, what does just an average Guy Ritchie film look like? Probably something like Wrath Of Man… which, hilariously, is itself a remake.
Wrath Of Man tells an epic story of revenge, specifically the revenge sought by Patrick Hill (Jason Statham) trying to avenge the loss of a loved one. As the film goes on, slowly we are shown how Patrick handles his job as the guard on an armoured truck and learn that he’s actually quite good at it when he single handedly takes out a mob of potential robbers… this is because Patrick leads a double life, one that is slowly unfurled to show his long criminal past, how he learned to be such a good shot and just why he’s taken on this job that will help him hunt down the people who took something precious from him.
Like a lot of Guy Ritchie films, Wrath Of Man is another one where a bunch of blue collar guys do a bunch of crimes and swear at each other. It’s almost the purest version of that, forgoing all the fun details in favour of just having Jason Statham shoot at random male character actors and the occasional strange cameo (Post Malone is in this and, surprisingly, he’s not bad) between long scenes of robbery planning. It’s like there’s a Guy Ritchie film checklist and Wrath Of Man tries to tick off every single box… except it forgot the box marked “Personality” because this film just doesn’t have one.
When you think of Guy Ritchie films, there’s often a feeling of fun somewhere there. The characters are usually just so enjoyable that you want nothing more than to just sit in a room while they banter for a few hours or the set pieces are so extravagant that they’re a joy to witness. That’s not here, it’s a by the numbers run through of the action tropes that Guy does well (make no mistake, even when he’s at his worst the man knows how to keep an action scene going) but there’s no character there. When several of your characters can address each other by numbers and it’s impossible to figure out the difference between them, there’s a problem. Hell, there are other cast members who have character names, no point in learning them because they aren’t interesting enough to care about.
What Wrath Of Man relies on to function is the action and there’s no denying that there’s a lot of great stuff here. Massive shootout scenes between robbers and security guards are gloriously tense, the grand scene of Statham just picking off robbers one by one like it was nothing is one of the most badass things that Statham has done which is saying a lot. If you just want great action scenes and don’t care about anything else then sure, Wrath Of Man delivers on that in spades and maybe Guy has spoiled us by setting his own bar so high, but it’s hard not to expect more from a guy who knows how to make obscenely entertaining bad guys who you end up actively rooting for.
The structure of Wrath Of Man is honestly the most interesting, the film is broken up into four chapters and each one slowly unfurls more and more of Patrick’s past, including his name and who he’s avenging and where he’s from. It’s very cleverly done, bouncing back and forth in time and showing alternate perspectives on the same event to reveal important information. It’s all so well done but again, everyone is so bland as characters that it’s hard to care. It’s not that the actors aren’t trying, every single one is a great performer who we know could deliver some great character work but it just feels like there’s nothing to work with.
Wrath Of Man is a balls out action movie with some expertly crafted moments that’s hampered by a bunch of characters who it’s hard to give a shit about. You can certainly try, maybe your love of Burn Notice star Jeffrey Donovan will help you make it through but with no one to latch onto and a plot that’s honestly thin enough for a 90 minute film, let alone a 2 hour epic, it’s only for those who care more about spectacle than substance.