Thin backdrop of Ritchie’s ‘Wrath’ makes it just a decent diversion

BY NEIL MORRIS, CN+R Film Critic
Posted 5/12/21

WRATH OF MAN

Grade: C

Director: Guy Ritchie

Starring: Jason Statham, Holt McCallany, Jeffrey Donovan, Josh Harnett, Eddie Marsan and Scott Eastwood

MPAA Rating: R

Running Time: 1 hr. …

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Thin backdrop of Ritchie’s ‘Wrath’ makes it just a decent diversion

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Posted

Whether good or bad, director Guy Ritchie’s films always come with enough visual panache to make them worth taking a gander at. When Ritchie marries his cinematic alacrity with adequate amounts of wit and world-building, he turns out films like “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” “Snatch,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E,” and “The Gentlemen.” When he doesn’t, you get movies like “Wrath of Man,” a high-gloss take on the standard “You killed my boy” revenge flick.

Jason Statham stars as Patrick Hill, nicknamed “H”, a crime boss who goes undercover as a nondescript armored truck security guard to suss out, and exact vengeance on, the masked thieves who killed his kid and left H nearly dead during an earlier stickup. The monosyllabic H plans to maraud his way through every would-be robber in the Los Angeles area until he slays his son’s killers.

The rest of H’s world — his new security coworkers, his family, his erstwhile crime partners — are a thinly drawn background lacking much in the way of dialogue, personalities, or motives. Laconic leads propelled by simple, straightforward grievances to exact bloody revenge are a worthy premise when accompanied by a sufficient backstory — John Wick, for example. When the backdrop is lacking, the pace and plot are just plodding.

One warning comes early on, when the film flashes back to H and his crew torturing and murdering a trail through LA’s criminal underworld searching for information on the identities of his boy’s butchers. It’s a pitch black sequence that seems to establish H’s blind, amoral psyche, until he lays waste to a smut house and conspicuously takes a moment to free some underage girls kept captive there, gifting them with thousands in ill-gotten profits as a parting gift. It is an audience-pandering moment meant to soften H’s hard edges, hard edges that are his sole defining character trait.

Midway through, Ritchie shifts focus to the thieves themselves, including their leader (Jeffrey Donovan) and the unhinged gunman who shot H’s son (Scott Eastwood, finally getting a role with some needed menace). Ritchie appears torn between remaking “Death Wish” and Michael Mann’s “Heat.” The net result is that he accomplishes neither.

One benefit are several crackjack heist sequences worthy of Mann’s oeuvre. Unfortunately, if Ritchie spent as much screen time on character development as the minutiae of heist planning, “Wrath of Man” might have been a durable genre entry. As it stands, it is a decent diversion, only worth taking a gander at.

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