Wrath of Man chronicles the story of H (Jason Statham), a mysterious man who has a dark and imposing aura about him. He joins a security company that is entrusted with transporting cash across the city. H barely passes the weapons test to join the company but in his very first skirmish guns down a sizeable number of villains with perfect headshots pointing to a sinister past. His team members start looking at him as a dark horse. His manager and the owner of the security company are delighted by his achievements and believe that he is the perfect guard and example to deter the villains from hitting their transports. In the very next attempted hit at one of their transports, the villains abandon their mission midway and dash for their lives with nothing more than a glimpse of H. This convinces the men of the company that he is a dangerous man and is also the point at which Guy Ritchie takes us back to H’s past and explains what he is doing in the security company.
Wrath of Man is a generic revenge drama peppered with scintillating action. What makes this film special are its structure, execution, and performances. Guy Ritchie doesn’t take his viewers to be stupid and completely abandons spoon-feeding them the story. Major characters of the film are introduced abruptly through nothing more than interpersonal drama and investing dialogues. He lets the viewers decipher the story one layer at a time. The film starts with introducing us to H and his first few months at the security company. Then we are taken back to his past where we learn who he truly is and why he is working in the security company. The next chapter of the story introduces us to the villains and their side of the story. Ritchie also pumps in enough inspiration and believability to ensure that the villains are justified in pulling off the kind of things that we see them pulling off. The final chapter of the film joins the two aspects of the story and shows us how H exacts his revenge on the villains.
I just loved how Ritchie executed the final chapter of the film. It is not so much a prolonged action sequence as it is a meticulously planned and executed heist wherein the only man standing between the villains and their loot is H. Even he is shown to be disarmed even before the heist begins. The villains know about his uncanny ability and thirst for violence but what they don’t know is his reasons to be there at that moment in time. That is the only point where their plan goes wrong and that is enough to bring down the house. I loved how Ritchie shows us the leaders of the villains planning the heist stage wise in the past and the same being executed in the present time with their planning working as a narration. It isn’t something that has never been done before but it is done here with such finesse and style that it feels fresh and on point. It also adds to this entire sequence feeling a lot snappier and on your face.
This might just be the best Jason Statham performance in years. I just loved everything about his performance in this film and it is almost impossible to imagine anyone else essaying this character other than him. I also noted that is the most unlike anything that Jason Statham has done for Guy Ritchie to date and he has been synonymous with the most well-known Guy Ritchie films. His previous performances for him were always laced with smart and snappy one-liners and a lot of situational comedy. H is a somber man who is almost devoid of any smiles and happiness.
Anyone who has seen the trailers knows that H loses his son and that justifies his stark mannerisms. The fact that his son was the only thing that he held dear and that he died because H was working on something that was tied to his criminal life only makes his torture that much more pronounced. So when he is shown going after the men that he believes are responsible for his plight, he is shown doing so with unimaginable viciousness and brutality. This adds a lot to the character and Statham pulls off these acts of violence with such deadpan authority that it makes the character even more towering.
Holt McCallany plays H’s boss and someone who has a bigger connection to H’s past than what he is aware of. While this was the only twist in the tale that I could predict easily, McCallany turns in such a fantastic performance that it practically overshadows the limitations of the writing of his character. I especially enjoyed his dialogue with H just before the climax. Josh Hartnett does well in an otherwise inconsequential role. Scott Eastwood as the only out and out baddie is terrific and gives out the right vibes to strike fear in the consciousness of the viewers. His is thought is very anti-climactic.
Wrath of Man holds on to your attention from the get-go and it is so because of its episodic storytelling and its director’s efforts to ensure that you have to apply yourself to understand and enjoy the episodes of the story. As is customary with Guy Ritchie films, the dialogue is fast-paced and the use of ornamental English by gangsters is ever-present. “We have scorched earth”, quips one of H’s henchmen when asked what he was doing to locate his son’s murderers. The use of this kind of language with pervasive violence leads to some interesting contrasts in the visuals and auditory feel of a film that never ceases to entertain and intrigue its audience.
It is the kind of film that will not only entertain the ones who are in it for the action but will also cater to the ones who want a cohesive story, human drama and want to cheer for a hero that is heroic in true sense and is not so because he can do something supernatural and unbelievable. The fact that there are no good guys here and it is only about choosing who the worse are will also add to the charm of the film. Wrath of Man for me is one of the best Guy Ritchie films of recent years and it is also the most unlike Guy Ritchie film in years.
Rating: 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)