A cold and mysterious new security guard for a Los Angeles cash truck company surprises his co-workers when he unleashes precision skills during a heist. The crew is left wondering who he is and where he came from. Soon, the marksman's ultimate motive becomes clear as he takes dramatic and irrevocable steps to settle a score.
Some people really don't appreciate Guy Ritchie's style. His trademark fast-forward, HFR (high frame rate) type of action doesn't appeal to many viewers, and his nonlinear narrative structure is often more confusing than captivating. At least, these are the common complaints across his filmography. While I acknowledge that these attributes don't always work, I'm actually quite a fan of his filmmaking techniques. From his more recent work on Aladdin and The Gentlemen to his take on classic characters such as Sherlock Holmes and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, I genuinely enjoy Ritchie's risky, divisive approach on the best way to tell a story.
Going in completely blind to Wrath of Man, I honestly didn't have a good feeling. I expected a generic, hollow, forgettable action flick with a main actor who everyone has seen countless times in this genre. I just hoped it would be entertaining enough for me to have a decent couple of hours in front of the TV. Well, this movie might be 2021's best surprise to date! If Zack Snyder (Zack Snyder’s Justice League) is often criticized for his excessive use of slow-motion, Ritchie receives the exact same complaints but regarding his high-speed action scenes. This time, the latter leaves his well-known characteristics aside and proves that he's not a one-trick filmmaker.
Impressively long, uncut takes - some reach the three-minute mark - help create a tremendously tense, suspenseful atmosphere throughout the entire runtime. Every scene is set up with patience and precise timing, making every single tiny movement from the camera and actors capture the audience's attention. Christopher Benstead's score is one of those examples that I will start giving people when they ask about impactful music in film. The heavy cello notes are incredibly ominous, establishing the mood of the whole environment in a way that will leave no viewer indifferent. Some of you might read the following as a critique, but the build-ups for each action scene steal the spotlight from the latter.
With that said, the shootouts and overall action are entertaining and well-filmed, which I believe will please a vast majority of spectators. Jason Statham (The Meg, Hobbs & Shaw) delivers a one-dimensional performance that would feel disappointing in any other movie, but it works for this protagonist. The main character is supposed to be mysterious and capable of anything, so it's only logical that he hides every ounce of emotion - even though it negatively affects a couple of dialogues. Furthermore, it's Jason Statham… moviegoers go see his films for his action skills, not his acting chops. When it comes to fire a gun or beat someone up, there are not that many actors who can do so as convincing as him.
Story-wise, Ritchie didn't let go of his favorite narrative structure. Nonlinear storytelling is extremely difficult to pull off perfectly due to how easily it becomes confusing or messy. Fortunately, Wrath of Man features several storylines converging all in a single moment, which quickly demonstrates what the screenwriters plan to do. A mysteriously compelling first half transitions to a more predictable, formulaic second part where one of the storylines feels both tacked on and uninteresting. The secondary characters lack any sort of arc or random development, with the focus going completely into the protagonist's mission, whatever that may be.
Wrath of Man isn't a groundbreaking, mind-blowing, or even innovative action movie, but it's still one of the biggest, best surprises of the year. While it's true that Guy Ritchie still follows the genre formulas of success, he shocks everyone by leaving his trademark filmmaking techniques aside, delivering an incredibly tense film packed with suspenseful, one-take build-ups to energetic, riveting action sequences. Jason Statham's one-dimensional display works well enough for a mysteriously captivating protagonist who the viewers can easily root for once his true goal is revealed. Christopher Benstead's score tremendously elevates the entire movie, establishing an extremely gripping atmosphere. The nonlinear storytelling features parallel narratives that are not all interesting or necessary, ending with an ironically abrupt last scene, contradicting the overall steady pacing. In the end, it's a solid recommendation to watch in theaters if possible.
Miramax, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Toff Guy Films, Lionsgate, CAA Media Finance by Guy Ritchie, Nicolas Boukhrief, Éric Besnard, Marn Davies, Ivan Atkinson.
Stars: Jason Statham, Holt McCallany, Josh Hartnett, Rocci Williams.
Genres: Action, Crime, Thriller
Keywords: robbery crime boss revenge shootout theft security guard ex soldier cash truck los angeles
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