“Wrath of Man”- Hell hath no fury [MOVIE REVIEW]
If there were a subtitle for “Wrath of Man” it would be “there will be blood,” lots of blood. This reteaming by Guy Ritchie, director, and Jason Stratham, star, may not bring back their glory days of “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels,” and “Snatch,” but it will have to do, and it does nicely.
Adapted from the French film “Le Convoyeur” (“Cash Truck”) that was written by Eric Besnard and Nicolas Boukhrief, Ritchie, Marn Davies, and Ivan Atkinson have reworked this quite well into an L.A. based thriller.
H, a stone cold killer, has just begun a job as a truck security guard at Fortico, a cash delivery service. Passing the “entrance” exam of truck driving and target shooting with the bare minimum of 70%, H isn’t interested in being buddy buddy with anyone. He’s there for a job and proves himself deceptively worthy on his first time out when the truck he and his two partners, Dave and Bullet, are driving is ambushed. Against protocol, the fearless H systematically and singlehandedly takes out every one of the robbers. His accuracy and methodology attract as much negative as positive attention. His supervisor, Terry, is worried that they’ve hired a psychopath; the owner of Fortico is convinced that H is a super hero. He has also drawn the attention of the FBI, but that’s more complicated.
Richie takes his story backwards and forwards in time to underline the complexity of H’s mission. Before he joined Fortico, H ran his own clandestine heist operation. One fateful day, however, he was just an ordinary dad taking his son Dougie to a basketball game who had to make a stop for “work.” He just needed to report on a Fortico truck. Is it turning left or right out of the yard? And thus triggers H’s ultimate quest, because in the time it took for him to report on the truck and order a couple of burritos, a well-organized and lethal gang has held up the truck, shot the two guards and the one civilian bystander, Dougie.
Like Rambo on a solo guerilla operation, H will find those bad guys and administer the punishment they deserve. How he gets there and the steps he takes, those are all spoilers and must be seen to be experienced. To say that H is cold-blooded is an understatement. He is single-minded of purpose and suspicious of all. He’s savvy enough to know that no one is his friend, even if not everyone is his enemy. Help comes from an unusual direction and so does hindrance.
As for the villains, and again no hints here, they are ruthless, surprising, and organized. If discovering who they are will be difficult, it pales in comparison to trying to catch them.
There’s not a lot of finesse in the performances that, in most cases, are over-the-top, sometimes gleefully so. Richie revels in extremes. The film hinges on and belongs to Jason Stratham and his dead eyes. That anyone this deadly and expressionless can elicit so much sympathy is a tribute to the fact that there actually is some there there. Stratham would have been a perfect anti-hero in the 40s. You can’t take your eyes off him no matter what the situation. There are other notable actors involved like Holt McCallany (“Mindhunters”) as Bullet, and Josh Harnett (“Oh Lucy” – not his most famous but certainly his best) as Boy Sweat Dave, H’s fellow drivers. Eddie Marsan, with an inexplicable accent, is H’s supervisor; and Andy Garcia is Agent King, H’s secret weapon, or is it the other way around. I have not mentioned any of the villains, some of whom will be familiar to you and some not, but you can discover them yourself. But regardless, this is Jason Stratham’s universe and you’re lucky if you can be an outlying planet within.
Typical of Guy Richie, there is, as previously mentioned, lots of blood, guts, and violence. It may be my own rationalization for such extreme action, but the number of shootings, stabbings, and deaths are so outsized as to be cartoonish. Yes, there are innocent victims, but mostly it’s the bad guys making it somewhat akin to old time westerns with massive shoot ‘em ups or ‘30s era gangster flics where machine guns rat-a-tatted away on rival mobsters leaving a body count of infinity. Richie really knows how to direct action and keep everything moving. Win, lose, or draw, he is fast, accurate, and interesting. Cinematographer Alan Stewart, who worked with Ritchie previously on “Aladdin” (seriously, Richie directed Disney’s live-action “Aladdin’) and “Sherlock Holmes,” has filmed a veritable love letter to Los Angeles with incredible shots that extend from downtown to the port. As is often the case with New York, L.A. is a major character in this film. Editing by James Herbert (Richie’s editor on the aforementioned projects with Stewart) is crisp and fast, and seamlessly joins disparate story points. And I really want to ask Stephanie Collie, the costume designer, where she got those awesome “Storm Trooper” style robber outfits.
Warts and all, this fast-paced action thriller about not-so-good-guys is a return to early form for Guy Richie and is worth seeing on a big screen.
Opening Friday May 7 at the Landmark Theatre and at the Laemmle Town Center 5, the NoHo 7, and the Playhouse 7.
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