Wrath of Man is a crime thriller that is the very definition of a mixed bag, with Guy Ritchie in the director's chair, weaving a down and dirty tale that is lacking heart and a sense of levity that is desperately needed throughout the Jason Statham vehicle. While the movie isn't afraid to go into some dark territory, acting as a perfect film for Statham to show off his acting chops, the benefit of the headliner is almost a detriment to everyone else in the film as the supporting characters barely get the opportunity to shine.
Guy Ritchie's previous films like The Gentlemen, Snatch, and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels certainly weren't shy about adding in some of the "old ultra-violence" but they managed to balance some of the heavier tones with witty, lovable characters. In Wrath of Man, the side characters can lift Statham's "H" but ultimately suffer as a result, with several supporting roles being unceremoniously vacated from the film in a style that almost falls under the category of "blink and you'll miss it." The likes of Josh Hartnett, Holt McCallany, and Scott Eastwood simply aren't given enough to do with the script here, making the film feel like a rushed affair that is simply trying to get from Point A to Point B.
One of the strongest factors in the film is its structure, setting up a story that is able to ingeniously dart through the points of view of not only H but the men responsible for the death of his son, which sets Statham's character on his path for revenge, with his targets referring to him as a "dark spirit." Once again, however, we simply don't get the chance to get to know the supporting cast as well as we could, so when the bullets start to fly and the bodies hit the floor, we don't feel much of anything. Towards the tail end of the movie, there's a big betrayal where it's revealed a character is not all that they appear to be, and it hardly resonates due to how little we know about said antagonist, which is truly a shame.
Ritchie's technical skills are on full display here, with some excellent cinematography and action scenes that are certainly able to show that the creator was born for pictures like this. There are story beats that can be a little hard to swallow, such as Statham's character just so happening to have robbery attempts made against the company he is working for back to back, but the moments themselves, as unrealistic as they might be, come across well enough on a technical level and do deliver on some heart-pounding moments.
The story that focuses on the men responsible for the death of H's son attempts to bring us to the side of the antagonists, throwing several witty one-liners our way that aren't able to help audiences to rally behind the villains. Scott Easton, who plays the crew's traditional "loose cannon" is effectively a wild card simply because the script demands it and we never get a sense of his character or why he decides to do what he does. While this story segment does try to inject some wit into the characters as they balance home life with the need to live by sporadic robberies, it once again falls short.
On its surface, Wrath of Man is a movie that lacks complexity in its bones, which isn't necessarily a knock against it, but the cut and dry aesthetic is another strike against Ritchie's latest effort. A simplistic movie can work, but it needs to find a way to stick with audiences, which the Statham vehicle ultimately isn't able to accomplish. Wrath of Man feels like a missed opportunity, which could have used more time in the oven and some possible re-writes to make the script that much stronger, creating characters that could resonate rather than feel like superfluous additions to move Statham's character forward.
Wrath of Man isn't a torturous affair and it does have some worthy elements, but it's one that could have been so much more than it is.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Wrath of Man is now playing in theaters nationwide.