blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Wrath of Man (2021, Guy Ritchie)

When did Guy Ritchie get so enthusiastic about his actors’ performances? Wrath of Man is a lot of things—and a little much—but it’s a middling cross between revenge and heist picture where the cast gets a great showcase. Sometimes too much of one, with the script way too talky in the first act. Man’s based on a French movie (though I’ve never seen opening titles speed through acknowledging it’s a remake like Man, the card is up for maybe eight seconds), with director Ritchie sharing co-screenplay credit with Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies. None of them deserve many pats on the back, as there’s constantly terrible dialogue because someone wants to make it feel gritty with distinct dialogue. You know, kind of like Heat.

Obviously, it’s impossible to do an armored truck robbery in L.A. story without acknowledging Heat a little and Ritchie gets it out of the way early. He goes on to whiff the big heist sequence (with the bad guys masked in body armor and invincible against any guns but their own). After promising it’s going to be great for the entire movie, with over-the-title top-billed but really it’s an ensemble by the end Jason Statham showing up at an armored car service, looking for work. L.A.’s had a rash of armored truck robberies lately—I mean, it’s so widespread even Post Malone would do it—and this company in particular had a bad robbery where some people got killed. Is Statham sure he wants the job? Of course, because he’s there to figure out who’s behind the armored truck robbery. Why?

Watch the movie. Enjoy watching Statham kicking ass while working with lovable old timer Holt McCallany, job weasel Josh Hartnett, and interested lady coworker Niamh Algar. Man’s too intentionally shitty in its pursuit of gritty to be entertaining; it’s all homophobic and misogynistic jokes amongst the staff—even though everyone’s a terrible person in one way or another so we don’t mind when they’re put in danger or die. It’s Statham’s movie, he’s the only invulnerable one. Him and the guy he’s after.

At the armored car depot, the acting’s all solid. McCallany, Hartnett, Algar, Eddie Marsan doing what seems to be a spoof of an accent as the boss; they’re all good. They’re ready and able for when Man need elevate them.

But it never elevates them because it’s got a fractured narrative (courtesy the original French movie), with time jumping forward, back, back more, forward, forward more. Ritchie kind of plays with it but once you find out it’s not original it’s just a little too ostentatious. It’d have been nice for Ritchie to do something more than assemble a decent cast and film them all right… but he really doesn’t. He coasts along on technical competence and performance and then he really screws up the third act. It’s a complete disaster. While still fine. It’s just a bad fine. If it weren’t for the actors, it’d be a fail.

The film doesn’t just reveal Statham’s involvement in the prologue armored car robbery, it eventually moves to the perspective of the armored car robbers, looking at two different gangs of them who might plug into one of the other time lines for a narrative “surprise.” When the gimmick is the point of the gimmick, there’s no real accomplishment, just not failing.

And again it doesn’t fail because of the actors. There’s good small work from Jeffrey Donovan, Laz Alonso (Mother's Milk from “The Boys”!), Darrell D’Silva, and Babs Olusanmokun. There are some mediocre performances, then some bad ones. There’s a charmless, desperate stunt cameo (well, there are two but only one matters) and then Scott Eastwood. Eastwood ends up playing a big part in the movie after being ancillary for much of it and sadly Ritchie does not get Eastwood to stop squinting like anyone’s going to think he’s his dad. He’s got a few all right moments, but he’s mostly dull. There are much worse performances, but Eastwood’s an opening titles billed star whereas no one else is as important. It’s too bad.

Especially given the third act’s not very good. And is predictable. Wrath of Man ends of being all too predictable because of its indifference and cynicism. It’s just a combination revenge and heist picture with competent muddy cinematography from Alan Stewart and a not-incompetent, intentionally wholly unpleasant, not ineffective score from Chris Benstead.

It’s fine. It was silly to expect more, even though almost everyone’s obviously capable of doing more.

Maybe not the screenwriters. Almost everyone else. Even Eastwood.

Well, maybe just maybe Eastwood.

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