Saturday, May 08, 2021

Wrath of Man, You Can Actually See it in Theaters

Armored car robberies are not just the stuff of viral videos from South Africa. They happen in the lawless land of Los Angeles too, where they have a much higher mortality rate. At least that was true of the heist that led to the collateral killing of Patrick Hill’s son. Unlike his boy, Hill is a man accustomed to danger, so he has no problem risking his life to find the gang and the inside man responsible in Guy Ritchie’s Wrath of Man, which is now playing in real-life brick-and-mortar movie theaters, even in New York City.

We do not initially know Hill’s full backstory. Ritchie and co-screenwriters Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies (adapting a 2004 French film) will reveal that over time. Hopefully, you do not mind flashbacks, because Ritchie frequently rewinds to fill in gaps and provide new perspective. However, we can tell by the fact Jason Statham plays Hill that he is one bad cat. Sure, he just slid by with a 70% on his firearms qualifying test at Fortico Security, but we have a hunch he was holding back.

Hill’s instructor-teammate “Bullet” dubs him “H,” because he is apparently in charge of nicknames. Their driver “Boy Sweat Dave” doesn’t really take to the new recruit, but even he is impressed when Hill takes down a team of six armed robbers more-less single-handedly. It is like he was waiting for such an attack, because he was, but they weren’t the right gang. H will keep digging, with the tacit encouragement of a senior FBI agent known simply as “The King,” who is happy to let Hill do all the dirty work.

When he isn’t shifting back-and-forth along the timeline, Ritchie stages some gleefully over-the-top shootouts. It is all really slick and loud, except Jason Statham, who as Hill, mostly talks in hoarse whispers. Of course, he has total credulity strutting, punching, and shooting his way through the film. Frankly, the villains are pretty disappointing, to the point of even being offensive when their true identities are finally unmasked. Fortunately, a large cast of colorful supporting players mostly compensates, notably including Holt McCallany as Bullet, Eddie Marsan as Terry (the Fortico business manager), and the great Andy Garcia, calming swimming through the chaos like a shark, as the King.

Old school action has largely been banished to VOD in recent years, but give it credit for braving the Covid-marketplace. Statham now follows Liam Neeson’s two legit theatrical releases, while the cowardly James Bond and Black Widow keep pushing the release dates of their new movies further and further back (and Wonder Woman and Godzilla completely surrendered, accepting their fate as loss-leaders for HBO Max). Those latter two films also happened to be terrible disappointments. In contrast,
Wrath delivers exactly what it promises.

Ritchie executes with the kind of hip style his fans will appreciate, but the film really boils down to action and attitude.
Wrath also boasts a truly impressive body-count. Still, the nature of the bad guys remains a bit of a buzz-kill, but there is enough payback business going on to satisfy regular genre viewers. Recommended (with mild reservations), Wrath of Man is now playing in clean, socially distanced New York theaters, including the AMC Lincoln Square.