When it comes to the wide array of movies out there, pure action films are in a class that’s entirely their own. Who is this tall, dark, and handsome protagonist who can seemingly kill anyone with minimal effort and never runs out of bullets or blood? Don’t worry about it. Just watch him run around and conquer all odds while saying super cool stuff all the time as he pursues his often simple, but highly relatable goals. These films don’t even try to dabble in the complexity or depth that define Oscar bait, and they are all the better for it. When executed at a high level, these can be some of the most enjoyable movies to watch with a beer and a bucket of popcorn.
Wrath of Man, the latest Jason Statham vehicle, often hits this mark. It follows the mysterious figure H (Statham) as he starts work for an armored car company in a fictional version of Los Angeles. In this dramatized version of the city, armored cars are apparently robbed by heavily armed teams of criminals on a regular basis, and it isn’t long before H’s truck is targeted. Obviously, being Jason Statham, he proves that he is ridiculously over-qualified for his security job by single-handedly fending off attack after attack with calculating lethality.
H’s exact motives are kept a complete secret for the first chunk of the film. Eventually, the story starts flashing back and then forward again as the plot unfolds chronologically out of order. There is a particular incident that serves as the catalyst for all of the movie’s events that is shown several different times from separate characters’ points of view with each instance revealing more of the truth, in the tradition of the classic film Rashomon. I won’t give too much away here, but suffice it to say that H has been gravely wronged in a way we all understand, and he is on the warpath to find the person behind it and treat them to their just desserts. A few twists, suspenseful turns, and intense action sequences later, H finds his man and wraps up the story in a cataclysmic finale that was alluded to all along.
When it comes to analyzing a movie and grading its quality, I believe you must simply look at what the film is trying to accomplish and assess it on those terms. Wrath of Man isn’t trying to induce deep thought or make some commentary about society, and it doesn’t have to. It’s all about providing the viewer with a good time. When viewed in this light, Wrath of Man is still a little bit of a mixed bag. There’s a lot that it does well, but there are also plenty of aspects that hold it back.
The first thing that stands out right away from the opening scene is the cinematography. There are some truly bold shots in this film. Most of the time, this aids the story and displays a lot of cinematic skill. The first scene is excellent and the masterful cinematography reveals only enough information to plant a seed in the viewer’s mind to be harvested later. But, there are a few instances where this approach to the camerawork is a bit over-ambitious and results in a scene that is more convoluted than it needs to be.
Wrath of Man is improved greatly by the filmmakers’ decision to lean into their star actor’s appeal to create a true pure action experience. The mystery and lack of information, in the beginning, would be highly confusing if not for the fact that Jason Statham is who you’re watching on the screen. You know he’s going to be badass and inexplicably skilled; you just need to sit back and wait for the moment that it happens. That anticipation takes a storytelling method that would be boring and frustrating and makes it exciting, even when nothing much is happening on-screen.
The non-chronological plot development employed here immediately brings to mind Christopher Nolan’s many directorial accomplishments and, by and large, director Guy Ritchie handles it just as deftly. The time jumps are all easy to follow. Each one reveals more of the story, and by the end, the viewer has a complete and full picture of what’s going on, with a nice unexpected twist or two for good measure. As far as plot development goes, this is a cut above a lot of the pure action fare that’s out there.
Despite these high points, there are some aspects of the movie that are decidedly less successful. While Statham turns in a strong performance even in the few scenes that require him to show his acting range, the supporting cast is largely an afterthought. This is common in the genre and the actors are sometimes hindered by verbosely written dialogue, but there are some exchanges that are downright snicker-inducing. However, this is somewhat aided by Jeffrey Donovan of Burn Notice fame, who turns up and delivers a near-flawless performance in a relatively small role as a retired Army officer. There’s also a hilariously random celebrity cameo that will make for a great moment in a theater full of people. But overall, things are a little stale when Statham isn’t the center of attention.
The biggest problem I have with Wrath of Man is the one thing it should do best: namely, the actual action sequences. There is one that is amazingly choreographed, but it’s mostly given away in the trailers. Beyond that, the action falls a little bit flat for me. This is exemplified by the final climactic action sequence that is convoluted, gratuitous, and wholly unsatisfying. In an unsuccessful attempt to make the end of the movie less predictable, they gave it a decidedly anticlimactic feel that leaves the viewer puzzled and misled for the final ten minutes or so. When the ultimate gratifying moment for H finally comes, it’s lackluster.
Overall, Wrath of Man is mostly what it appears to be: a Jason Statham action flick that stays true to its roots and doesn’t try to be anything that it’s not. If you want to come and watch him be superhumanly awesome, you will have a great time. If you’re looking for a more high-brow approach to the action genre, you may want to skip this one.
About Wrath of Man
Synopsis: The plot follows H, a cold and mysterious character working at a cash truck company responsible for moving hundreds of millions of dollars around Los Angeles each week.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Writers: Nicolas Boukhrief, Éric Besnard
Starring: Jason Statham, Josh Hartnett, Holt McCallany, Rocci Williams, Jeffrey Donovan, Scott Eastwood, Andy Garcia
Runtime: 1h 58min
Releases: 7 May 2021 (USA)
My name is Kevin and I have been writing about movies with GNN since January 2020. Some of my favorite films are Inception, Django Unchained, American Hustle, and Gladiator. I graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Arizona State University in May 2018. I am currently self-employed in e-commerce and live in Tempe, Arizona. In my free time, you can probably find me slinging spells in Magic: the Gathering or dusting off a retro video game console (Super Nintendo is my favorite).