Jason Statham and Guy Ritchie reunited for a revenge flick! What’s not to like? The trailer made it seem fairly generic but, while you may think you’ve seen revenge flicks before, Ritchie did a great job toying with those fundamental expectations in Wrath of Man.
The broad strokes are pretty familiar, a man loses someone important to him and goes on an extensive mission to track down and kill those responsible. On the surface, it doesn’t seem too different from the many, many tellings of this kind of story. However, the execution and the delivery did wonders for the plot. You have a vague idea of what’s going on in the beginning but, as the layers get progressively pulled back, the more you get invested in the characters on both ends of the equation. Motivation plays a big role on either end of the pendulum and when it swings, it swings heavy.
Ritchie took the classic revenge thriller and found a way to turn it inside out without sacrificing the primal element that makes these kinds of movies work. He has shown time and time again that he’s an immensely talented filmmaker. Even if you’re not a fan of everything he does, it’s easy to recognize two of his strongest assets are a keen sense of pacing and a remarkable knack for (not just visual) storytelling. Wrath of Man thrives in those departments. Alan Stewart’s cinematography is strong, without being overzealous, and takes the audience on a journey where the morsels of key information are doled out at just the right time and in the right sequence. It’s a little tough to explain without spoilers, but there’s some back and forth when it comes to establishing character foundations.
Marn Davies and Ivan Atkinson wrote the screenplay with Ritchie and it noticeably had more gravity to it. It’s not completely without a sense of humor, but it isn’t as ingrained into the DNA of the movie as with most of his other work. It wasn’t what I was expecting but I liked it that way and it felt like more of a natural progression from The Gentlemen.
Jason Statham always delivers and this was no exception. The more serious roles are a good fit for him when he wants it and he made for a compelling lead. Struggling to grieve, his plan leaves a lot of bodies in his wake but there isn’t a lot of (if any) time dedicated to the emotional burden he’s carrying around. Statham has always had the brooding thing locked down, so it worked just fine.
As with most Ritchie projects, the supporting cast is filled with weird and charismatic characters such as “Boy Sweat” (Josh Hartnett) and “Bullets” (Holt McCallany). Niamh Algar gave a very strong supporting performance as the only woman working among the security team. She had one of the most interesting characters and played it well, but as with Statham’s H, there just isn’t the time to develop her past what we see.
Jeffrey Donovan and Scott Eastwood make a really good tandem on the other side of the equation and the filmmakers didn’t gloss over their characters. Taking the time give them motivation, history, and context made the payoff much more worthwhile when tying the whole story together. Andy Garcia even pops up to say hi every now and again in a very small role.
The original music by Christopher Benstead is awesome and goes a long way in framing the story as it unfolds. I haven’t seen too much so far this year, but it’s some of the best and most fitting original music I’ve seen for a film in 2021.
Recommendation: I really enjoyed this movie and if you are a fan of Guy Ritchie and/or Jason Statham, it’s probably right up your alley. This movie is more heavy-handed in its approach than most of the previous work from either, but that’s what makes it stand out.