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Wrath of Man

Year: 2021
Studio: MGM
Director: Guy Ritchie
Writer: Nicolas Boukhrief/Éric Besnard/Guy Ritchie/Ivan Atkinson/Marn Davies
Cast: Jason Statham, Josh Hartnett, Jeffrey Donavan, Scott Eastwood, Andy Garcia, Raúl Castillo

The thought of a Guy Ritchie crime thriller starring Jason Statham was enough to prompt me to go to the cinema to see this, quite an achievement in the COVID age where there's very little reason to go to the cinema at all.

Even though I really disliked The Gentlemen and decided I'd given up on Ritchie as a result, it's hard not to be sold on an action film with the Stath doing what he does best, hardly breaking a sweat as he dispatches bad guys with glorious abandon.

A remake of a French film, it's a Rashomon-style look at a heist seen from different perspectives separated by chapters (complete with very literary-inspired title cards), and while it take you awhile to understand that approach and it never really asserts itself strongly enough, the thrill quotient is enough to get you on board.

We see an armoured truck full of money leave a depot before a roadwork crew stops it, they all produce machine guns, cut through the door and make off with the loot – all seen from within the cabin along with the terrified driver and guard. Gunfire breaks out off screen, chaos ensues, and the heist is over.

A few months later a stoic, Man With No Name-type (who actually has a name – Patrick, played by Statham) turns up at the armoured car compnay that was hit, looking for a job. He has impeccable references but his test scores are sort of middling, only just scraping through the training.

But H, as his bull-like new partner Bullet names him, shows his true colours when one of their early drops is hit. They take Bullet hostage and tell H and puffed up young buck Boy Sweat (Josh Hartnett, the first time I've seen him in anything for years) to just leave the loot and walk away, but H penetrates their abanoned warehouse stronghold and takes them all out with icy efficiency.

Apparently there's more to H than meets the eye, specially when he and Bullet's subsequent run is targeted again in LA's Chinatown, the crew retreating in a hurry when they see H's face, apparently petrified.

Then we cut back to months earlier when H is out with his adult son, who's visiting from H's native UK. He's at a taco truck buying burritos when the armoured car heist we've already seen takes place nearby. One of the disguised construction workers trains a gun on H's son becaue he sees the whole thing and then executes him so as to not leave any witnesses, shooting H as well as he rushes fruitlessly to his son's aid.

When he wakes up in hospital week later, we learn (though it's not made at all clear in the movie – I had to confirm it from reviews online) that H is actually the boss of an elite crime gang. His underlings are the ones that fled the Chinatown heist when they realised he was one of the guards (and in one of the many plot holes, I couldn't work out why he didn't tell them what he was doing in the search for his son's murderer by joining the armoured car company), and now he commands them to find the man who killed his son whatever it takes, sending them on a brutal killing spree across the LA underworld looking for clues.

Then (so much information!) we meet the robbers, a former military platoon finding it hard to make ends meet for their families and who decide to use their skills by turning to crime. After a few low level jobs for security industry employers they decide to hit a final huge target, the armoured car company on Black Friday when the edpot is flush with cash.

When it starts the action finally kicks in with bullets and bodies flying, double crosses coming quicker than you can process them and The Stath, in the middle of it all, choking, kicking and shooting his way to his vengeance.

There are some pretty good action sequences but I found the script a bit more complicated than it needed to be. I also don't know what the style of the episodic nature – fine script font of the title cards and all – was supposed to add to a bloody action movie. If Ritchie was going for a tongue in cheek or air of genteel class that contrasted with the genre he needed more of it in the design of the movie and story itself, not just a few classy looking signposts along the way.

I also found the cineatography dreadfully murky at times, all of it a bit sepia toned and constantly browned, as if Ritchie and DP Alan Stewart wanted to give it a bit of a vintage flair. It was another element that didn't suit the story, however, and the whole thing ties itself a bit more in creative and narrative knots than the genre warrants.

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