‘Wrath of Man’ movie review: Jason Statham smolders in knockout Guy Ritchie thriller

A mystery man takes a security job guarding a cash truck in Los Angeles and starts foiling robbery attempts with almost superhuman prowess in Wrath of Man, a new thriller starring Jason Statham and directed by Guy Ritchie that might be the most accomplished film yet from either. Ritchie also co-wrote the script, adapted from the 2004 French film Cash Truck.

Wrath of Man opens during the first day on the security job for Statham’s “H”, who is shown the ropes by garrulous Bullet (Mindhunter’s Holt McCallany, magnetic here in a scene-stealing role) and lightly chided by co-workers that include always-on-edge Boy Sweat Dave (Josh Hartnett, nicely playing against type), gutless Hollow Bob (Rocci Williams), and amorous Dana (Niamh Algar).

On H’s first day out driving a cash truck carrying millions alongside Bullet and Dave, a gang of robbers that includes a character played by Post Malone attempt a robbery. Bad idea, as H dispatches the six-man crew single-handedly, to the utter astonishment of his co-workers.

There’s clearly a lot more to H than he’s letting on, a fact of which Bullet and manager Terry (Eddie Marsan) are keenly aware. But instead of putting him behind a desk on psych leave, he’s quickly branded a hero and the company’s owner insists on getting him back out on the job, where he continues to strike fear in the hearts of armed robbers.

What, exactly, is going on? Wrath of Man’s core enigma is answered after the first act, as the film details the past life of Statham’s H character in scenes featuring some terrific support from Darrell D’Silva; subsequent flashback scenes showcase events from different perspective, utilizing characters played by Scott Eastwood, Jeffrey Donovan, Laz Alonso, and Raúl Castillo.

The non-linear storytelling adds some offbeat (if obvious) mystery to Wrath of Man’s first half, but I couldn’t help but feel this story would have worked just as well if told in a more traditional manner. Still, there’s no second wasted here as every minute of the film adds vital information and builds to an almost unbearably intense and expertly-executed finale.

Wrath of Man is on a par with 2018’s similarly-themed and criminally underrated Den of Thieves, and an instant classic among Los Angeles neo-noir thrillers that showcase a different side of the city than the usual Hollywood production. Taut and exciting every second of the way, the two-hour runtime flies by and leaves us wanting more.

Throughout the entirety of Wrath of Man, Ritchie has dialed his usual style back more than a few notches from memorable features like Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, which are often cited as the director’s best efforts before embarking on Hollywood fare like the Sherlock Holmes movies.

To those expecting something like last year’s The Gentlemen, which successfully recreated the kind of bombastic Snatch-like style Ritichie was once known for in a lean little package, Wrath of Man might feel like a pedestrian effort that falls in line with the kind of Jason Statham action vehicles the star has become known for over the past two decades.

But there’s so much more here than meets the eye, and the craft and care taken to create the kind of thriller that envelopes the audience but never calls attention to itself is clearly the work of a more accomplished filmmaker. Like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood from Quentin Tarantino, Wrath of Man is a film from a director who has clearly matured and refined his style and is now operating at his peak. It’s also one of the best films of the first half of 2021.

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.