Directed by Guy Ritchie (Snatch, The Gentlemen), Wrath of Man is a crackerjack heist thriller. It features a compelling trick of showing three different point of views of the opening heist and how it affects different groups of characters. This isn’t as smartly quippy as Ritchie’s classic crook films, it’s a wee bit too dour, but it delivers good twists along the way. Wrath of Man is a somewhat generic name that sort of conveys the main character’s quest but makes it indistinguishable to other action thrillers. But despite the weak title and bland poster, the movie is surprisingly good, has some decent performances, and lots of surprises.
A new recruit, Patrick Hill (Jason Statham), lands at Fortico Security armoured truck company and is nicknamed “H” by the veteran, Bullet (Holt McCallany). Tensions are high since the company was robbed recently resulting in the deaths of drivers and a civilian. H is scorned by the cocky Dave (Josh Hartnett) until one day H stops a heist by himself, which is befuddling as H barley passed the entrance exam. It turns out that there’s a reason H wanted this job and is willing to do anything to find out who robbed the truck. There is another gang of former military veterans turned armoured car heisters led by Jackson (Jeffery Donavan) and his crew are looking for a big score, even though the unhinged Jan (Scott Eastwood) threatens to end everything due to an itchy trigger finger. The crooks and H are on a collision course for a big heist and not everyone is going to make it out alive.
There’s a really good twist as to why H is suddenly so great at his job with incredible killer instinct. Rather annoyingly, the trailer gives it away which is a shame because the audience doesn’t know what type of movie this is until 40 minutes in. H is presented as a stoic, silent type as Statham’s characters often are and the realization he can be dangerous works well. The movie delves into his life before the armoured truck company with a long flashback that has brutal bits. There’s an attempt to paint H as nasty bone-breaker with a heart of gold as he doles out cash to informants and sex traffic victims, which seems a bit pointless. The reason H is on his spree is compelling enough, he didn’t need to be a sympathetic antihero.
The script structure makes this more compelling than if the story had unfolded in a conventionally linear fashion. It sort of turns into a different movie every 30 minutes. Wrath of Man opens with an awesomely brutal single-take shot of the armoured car robbery that has a riveting sense of immediacy. The story then follows H at his new job as he gets to know all of his team. There’s a lots of supporting characters like Harnett’s Dave or the sassy Dana (Niamh Algar) but they’re eventually dropped making their development a wee bit pointless. Although it is kind of fun to see Dave starting as the cool guy and when things get dangerous he immediately freaks out and wants to run away. Statham and Algar get a tense scene when H confronts Dana about a hidden box of cash. McCallany as Bullet is the steadfast veteran which works well later as allegiances start shifting.
The flashback to H’s life before the job has some striking moments and there’s some darkly funny stuff with lots of Ritchie’s trademark gangland brutality. The third shift in focus is about the crew of veterans who attacked the armoured car. The heist from their perspective is compelling as the heist starts smooth and then falls apart. Donavan as the team leader seemingly doesn’t want anyone to get hurt but getting the cash is the highest priority. One guy who can go off at any moment is Jan and Eastwood makes him a baddie who is very easy to hate. There is a close up on his face when things get unexpectedly bloody during the heist and Eastwood shows a possible brief moment of sympathy and then becomes coldblooded.
There are two really good action scenes here; the first is when H takes out an entire crew of would be thieves. One of the robbers is played by Post Malone which is a bit jarring but it is satisfying to see him get wrecked by Jason Statham. The other good action scene is when the veteran crew raids the armoured car company. They show up in full body armour which makes them almost invulnerable to small arms fire as H takes them on. It’s a great bit of action staging and things go progressively wrong and various double-crosses occur. The music by Christopher Benstead has a nicely menacing motif that repeats throughout the film to indicate impending violence.
Wrath of Man is an unfolding puzzle box of a movie that shifts perspectives to show all angles on a deadly heist. It may sort of look like a generic action flick on the cover but it has unexpected layers and twists. Although a lot of time is devoted to ancillary characters that don’t ultimately matter the best part is watching it all explode in the finale.
Wrath of Man
Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Jason Statham, Holt McCallany and Josh Hartnett