Wrath of Man (2021) – The Good Guy (Ritchie)

Guy Ritchie for me is not so much a hit-and-miss filmmaker as he has a hit-and-miss style. His background in directing music videos and commercials has been instrumental and key to Ritchie’s entire approach to the medium of film much like other directors who got their start making videos like David Fincher, Michael Bay, Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, Gore Verbinski etc. Whatever your opinion is of any of the previously mentioned filmmakers, they definitely have their own sense of style and filmmaking that can be said to be entirely unique to them. But the thing with Guy Ritchie, for me anyway, is that sometimes his style works for me but other times it doesn’t, and I’m not sure as to why that is. I really liked his debut film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels which immediately set him up in the emerging post-Trainspotting British film scene. Then he made Snatch which for my money is Ritchie’s masterwork and is a film I deeply love. It’s the one film where Ritchie’s filmmaking perfectly elevates the material to produce a very funny, entertaining and stylish film to please. I also really enjoy his two Sherlock Holmes films (particularly the second one), and brought a much-needed freshness to the Sherlock Holmes property. Then there are times when even with his style, I find myself not liking the films very much. I found RocknRolla to be quite self-indulgent and annoying whilst getting slightly more entertaining after I gave up trying to make sense of the plot. And he fared no better in my opinion with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, all of which I can remember is a bunch of dudes in costume explaining everything for two hours. So with the release of his latest film (third in two years after Aladdin and The Gentlemen), it was interesting to guess which camp Wrath of Man would fall into, the good Ritchie or the bad Ritchie? I think it’s somewhere in the middle but it’s leaning towards the good Ritchie actually.

The story is, given Ritchie’s back catalogue, surprisingly simple, at least at first glance. In fact, for the first half roughly of the film I felt like I wasn’t really watching a Guy Ritchie movie but just a random throwaway Jason Statham action flick. Luckily we get more from Guy as the film goes on and it starts to feel normal again. But because I don’t want to give anything away, I will only give you the barest of plot descriptions available. Essentially, Jason Statham plays Jason Statham as a dark, brooding, stoic, English and mysterious Jason Statham working for a cash truck company in Los Angeles, responsible for moving millions of dollars in cash every single day. And of course L.A. being L.A, the risk of these trucks getting robbed is huge, so having Jason Statham around is actually a pretty good idea. And throughout the course of the film we get to meet various different characters played by such talent and a-listers as Holt McCallany, Josh Hartnett, Not Elizabeth Debicki, Jeffrey Donovan, Not Emily Blunt, Scott Eastwood, Not Warren Ellis, Eddie Marsan, Not Delroy Lindo and virtual cameo appearances from Post Malone and Andy Garcia, because why not (Malone) and they’re probably cheap (Garcia).

It’s a remake of a French film from 2004 simply titled Cash Truck, but I haven’t seen it (doubt many people have seen it at all frankly) so I don’t feel the need to compare it to that original film. What I will compare it to though is Michael Mann’s 1995 opus Heat. It’s fair to say that any movie dealing with heists in L.A. or anywhere for that matter, will be compared to Heat at some point whether the influence is direct or not. So influential has Mann’s masterpiece been on filmmakers over the last two decades. Of course Ritchie’s not the first filmmaker to riff off of Heat. Christopher Nolan has openly talked of its influence on The Dark Knight, Ben Affleck’s The Town is basically Heat in Boston, and of course we have Den of Thieves starring everyone’s favorite Gerard Butler, which is Heat in L.A…again. What Wrath of Man takes from Heat is the idea of an ultra-disciplined band of bank robbers with military precision when commencing their heists. They even have a loose cannon in their gang, essentially the Waingro character, who gets the robbers into trouble and also inadvertently the one that sets off the plot of the film. But Ritchie is not just aping Mann here, oh no we get ourselves a little slice of Martin Scorsese’s The Departed in its characterization and depictions of graphic urban violence and casual swearing.

What I will say about Wrath of Man is that this is a much more somber Ritchie fair than usual. The majority of his work, even the slightly more dramatic ones, have always been interjected with humor and moments of levity. Not so much this time around, in fact with the exception for a moment or two Wrath of Man doesn’t contain any humorous elements at all, and treats the story relatively seriously. The violence feels pretty grotesque and real most of the time, and with references to drug cartels, child pornography etc we know we’re in a dangerous and grim world that’s far removed from comically incomprehensible Brad Pitt and wise-cracking Sherlocks and Watsons. It’s definitely a new approach for Guy, and one that will definitely polarize people. For me personally, I must say it worked for the most part. As the story progressed and we began to understand more of the action I started to enjoy the fact that the film did take itself seriously. The action was also very well-handled and well-made, with there being actual stakes felt throughout.

So even if Wrath of Man is far from Ritchie’s finest work, if this is an indication of his relative maturity as a filmmaker I think I might be looking forward to his next film (Ritchie going full Soderbergh style with it already being shot and edited by the time this was released). So if you’re looking for a decent action film and if you’re willing to be patient with a story that might seem confusing at first hand whilst being derivative of better films at the same time, I think you’re gonna like Wrath of Man, as I did.

On second thought, nevermind being excited about Ritchie and Statham’s next film together, because I just found out that the name of Statham’s character is Orson Fortune. Not having that, sorry!

Published by davidalkhed

Co-creator, critic and columnist for A Fistful of Film.

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