Jason Statham exudes quiet determination and pure menace in Wrath of Man

Starring Jason Statham as a mysterious man named H, Guy Ritchie’s new action-thriller is the director’s best work in years—even if that isn’t saying a heck of a lot, writes Daniel Rutledge.

There’s nothing quite like going into a movie expecting to have a shitty time only to enjoy the heck out of it. This is Guy Ritchie’s best work in years, although it doesn’t take much to beat the likes of his King Arthur, Aladdin and Sherlock films. Wrath of Man has a lot of problems that will frustrate some viewers and it won’t be remembered as a great film, but it also showcases a lot of creativity and kicks some serious arse.

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There are a lot of filmmaking tricks pulled and interestingly they’re not all used in the action sequences. Those are well done but are generally much more restrained than the frenetic madness one may be expecting—that wild, weird energy is used more in how the narrative is delivered. Don’t get me wrong, this is a generic crime tale with some truly awful dialogue, but the unorthodox way it unfolds makes it much more interesting than it deserves to be. There are some bizarre editing choices and other unusual stylistic flourishes thrown in—some work, some don’t, all kept me intrigued.

When we get to the climactic heist is when Ritchie starts firing on all cylinders. This scene is damn cool in how it’s built up to and everything about the way it plays out. Yes, people are going to compare it to Heat and like almost every post-Heat heist scene, it’s going to compare unfavourably. But this is very much its own thing and the sort of awesome I look forward to rewatching a lot. Discovering how it plays out is a joy I can experience only the once, but elements like the brilliant camera work and sound design I will enjoy several more times over.

Speaking of which, the growly, repetitive, seething score is another highlight. There are also a few warm-up heists before the main event and all are really enjoyable. If you dig seeing masked men with guns rob armoured security trucks, this movie has a crazy shitload of that.

Statham delivers the goods in the lead well, thankfully retiring the goofiness employed in many of his recent roles and instead just exuding quiet determination and pure menace. This movie is also the best use yet of Scott Eastwood, by a long shot—finally this kid looks like he could deliver on the promise of his father’s legendary name. Other cast members also turn out solid performances, but there are some pretty bad clunkers in this thing, too.

And oh boy, some of the scripting is bad, especially early on when it’s needlessly explaining stupid nicknames and such. The nonlinear storyline structure is very cool, but the bone-headed exposition is very not.

Other dumb shit happens like Statham magically surviving getting shot over and over, and when you think about some of the plot elements for more than a moment they really don’t hold up. But not many folks would go into this anticipating a stellar story with great dialogue, I expect. If you go in with low expectations, it’ll easily surpass them and provide a lovely bit of entertainment with a surprising amount of originality.