Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 11, 2021)
In 2019, director Guy Ritchie sat behind the camera for Disney’s hit Aladdin, his biggest commercial success. Aladdin took Ritchie outside his wheelhouse, as it asked him to deviate from his usual regimen of violent gangsters.
Early 2020’s The Gentlemen got Ritchie back to his roots, and he continues that path in 2021. With Wrath of Man, Ritchie returns to the grittier “R”-rated material of his formative cinematic efforts.
Patrick Hill (Jason Statham) joins armored truck company Fortico Security. Although he passes qualifying tests by a slim margin, Patrick – given the nickname “H” by his new co-workers – displays superior combat skills when confronted by assailants.
This makes H a burgeoning legend at Fortico, albeit one with a secret. As H continues his time at the security company, his true motives become clear.
Although he went down occasional detours like Aladdin or the Robert Downey Sherlock Holmes movies, the previously-mentioned gangster movies remain Ritchie’s calling card. He gained attention in the 1990s via Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, a movie that appeared to brand him as a British Tarantino, and much of his later filmography echoed that vibe.
The Gentlemen marked a fairly overt return to Ritchie’s earlier style, but Wrath proves different. Although it embraces gangsters and “R”-rated violence, it manages tonal variations that allow it to stand out from Ritchie’s stereotypical efforts.
Which I regard as a good thing. While Ritchie makes fairly interesting “Guy Ritchie movies”, I appreciate that he tries something a bit different with Wrath, a film that follows a darker route than his usual glib affair.
Wrath easily could’ve turned into just another flashy Ritchie movie, especially since it reunites him with Statham, a member of the Lock cast and an occasional collaborator.
Statham often adopts a fairly broad, glib tone of his own with his performances, a factor that made him a good fit with Ritchie. Given H’s murky past, though, the actor needs to bring something else to the table, and he does so well.
Without question, H could easily turn into the kind of badass super-assassin sort we often see in stories like this. While Wrath allows H his moments of astonishing skill, it also gives him a level of depth that ensures the character doesn’t just turn into another cliché master killer.
To discuss these elements would go into spoiler territory, so I won’t elucidate. Just understand H will offer a more complex character than usual for this kind of film, and Statham plays the role well.
Statham avoids the kind of jokey energy that carried him in flicks like The Meg and Hobbs & Shaw. Instead, he channels H’s inner turmoil to create a surprisingly compelling character.
Wrath also manages some plot detours that give it a more episodic feel than one might initially anticipate. These could make the movie disjointed and erratic, but Ritchie handles them well and brings all the threads together for an incendiary climax.
All of this leads to a strong crime thriller. Dark and ominous, the film creates a cruel but engaging world and keeps us with it.