Jason Statham is the rare actor that understands his skill set and what he does best. Statham isn’t in any hurry to dispel that notion in his latest action thriller, Wrath of Man.
Partnered up with his Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels director Guy Ritchie and Statham is fully in his element.
Ritchie has always excelled at heist films and this time he ditches his typical comedic elements to his projects and just makes a more straightforward action film. The results are surprisingly effective making for a tremendous effort from all involved.
Statham (Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw) stars as H, a mystery man clearly above his pay grade working security for an armored truck company. He’s new to the gig, but his fellow guards Bullet (Holt McCallany, Justice League) and Boy Sweat Dave (Josh Hartnett, Lucky Number Slevin) find him to be an invaluable asset especially after he single-handedly holds off a would-be truck heist.
In the film’s opening act we’re shown the dangers of this profession as a duo get robbed by a squad of highly trained individuals. Quick, what’s Robert De Niro, Tom Sizemore and Danny Trejo up to?
Statham gives his usual steely cool performance as H gains the trust of his supervisors and partners. The guards might be social misfits, but they’re a tight-knit crew and while initially leery, they welcome H into the fold. H’s defense tactics also earn the commendation of his employer who likes the idea of a guard capable of emerging unscathed in a shootout without having to deal with any pesky insurance issues.
Ritchie and co-screenwriters Marn Davies and Ivan Atkinson adapt Nicolas Boukhrief’s 2004 French crime thriller, Cash Truck, for American audiences. While it might not be original, the script provides an extensive amount of flavor for its characters. Granted some of the dialogue is a little silly, but the actors remain committed to their characters to the point it feels more like something these oddball guys would actually say.
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Ritchie doesn’t structure the film in the traditional sense going from what could have been a messy non-linear perspective. That’s an easy situation to lose hold of, but Ritchie keeps the progressive flashbacks on a simple and sensible path that peels the layers of the story. In this case, each flashback sequence feels like a bonus that provides greater insight on H and the other characters.
One area Ritchie has rarely struggled is in balancing a large ensemble. Statham might be the headliner, but this cast is seriously impressive. Among the standouts are Jeffrey Donovan, Scott Eastwood, Laz Alonso, Eddie Marsan, Darrell D’Silva, Babs Olusanmokun and Andy Garcia. Breaking down their various roles would be spoilers, but Ritchie gives his cast ample screen time and fitting showcases.
Statham isn’t cheated of any screen time, but there’s extended sequences he sits out. That proves a smart move to fully flesh out the other players and their agendas. All this leads to a significantly intense and riveting final act with an unflinching approach to the violent acts conceived.
In most of his films, Statham almost has a winking at the audience demeanor as he navigates through one impossible action sequence after another. With Wrath of Man, Statham dials down the playfulness resulting in one of his most intense roles yet. It’s a good fit for him and could open the door for another decade plus of roles like Liam Neeson has enjoyed over the last 20 years.
Likewise, Ritchie tends to have a little flair and fun with his action films injecting plenty of comedy and wacky hijinks. That’s non-existent here and shows how adept Ritchie can be in the straight, revenge thriller action genre.
Will Wrath of Man be the action movie to best in 2021? Even with a packed slate, this is going to be a major contender. If nothing else it’s going to stand as one of the strongest in Ritchie and Statham’s filmography.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: United Artists Releasing