Guy Ritchie’s latest, Wrath of Man, based on the 2004 French thriller Le convoyeur, stars action man Jason Statham as H (“like the bomb, or Jesus H”) a new employee at an armoured truck company, Fortico, that transports millions of dollars in cash around Los Angeles each day. He joins the firm two months after a brutal raid on one of their vehicles left two guards dead. Easily passing the company’s physical fitness test (this is the mighty Stath we’re talking about here after all), H only just scrapes by the firearms screening with pretty average skills. Facing an armed robbery in his early weeks on the job though, he soon shows his true shooting abilities are precise and professional. Perhaps there’s more to the man than meets the eye.
The social environment at Fortico, with just one female employee—Dana (Niamh Algar)—working as a guard, is like an overgrown boys’ locker room, rife with the banter of toxic masculinity and homophobic slurs, especially from Boy Sweat Dave—yes the character names are very Guy Ritchie—played by Josh Hartnett, who H gets partnered with. To Ritchie’s credit though, unlike with many action pics over the years, we’re not meant to be impressed or amused by their “manly” talk, instead he uses it to make H, who is a man of few words, stand out as more sophisticated, evolved, and more assuredly “masculine”; if you feel comfortable in your heterosexuality you don’t have to “prove” it by being homophobic. In any case, sharply focused, H is a man of action rather than words.
With a well-structured screenplay by Ritchie, along with Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies, the timeframe shifts backwards and forwards months at a time at several points throughout the film, revealing who was involved in the first raid on Fortico and H’s connection to what happened, and helping to keep the audience fully engaged. As the movie builds to an audacious heist, the tension is occasionally slightly undercut by the juxtaposition of the planning and the mission itself. The two hour running time flies by though, as Ritchie sustains the suspense effectively throughout.
Stephanie Collie’s costume design incorporates some stylish signature Stath knitwear, and he even manages to look hot in his security guard uniform. Statham is one of the few action stars whose name on the bill alone would make me want to see a movie. In The Meg for instance, which I’d likely have given a miss were it not for his name on poster, that CGI prehistoric shark was cool, but it couldn’t scene-steal from Stath’s one-liners. He has that impact on this film too, but gone is the quippy dialogue in a much more somber toned film than many of Ritchie’s previous movies, with a colour palette and cinematography to match. Amid the strong supporting cast which features Hartnett, Holt McCallany, Raúl Castillo (Richie in Michael Lannan’s HBO series Looking), Andy Garcia, and Eddie Marsan, it’s the Stath that makes the film compelling, and I missed his presence in the sections of the movie that he doesn’t appear in. His brooding vibe, understated, no-nonsense dry delivery, and sense that he’s holding something back all draw me in, there’s a depth to his work, and vulnerability along with the strength he conveys, he’s got that appealing British swagger and rugged suaveness too that make him a convincing hard man. It doesn’t hurt of course that the former professional diver, turned model and music video dancer, is easy on the eye, OK, devastatingly handsome. All qualities that Ritchie no doubt spotted in him when he cast Statham in his first acting role in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels back in 1998, followed by Snatch in 2000, and then Revolver in 2005. Following Wrath of Man the pair have another as yet untitled film together currently in post-production.
The result here is a gripping action thriller that keeps the audience on its toes, with a compelling central performance by Jason Statham.
By James Kleinmann
Wrath of Man opens exclusively in US theaters on Friday May 7th 2021.