Guy Ritchie’s new film “Wrath of Man” begins similarly to Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”, which was inspired by Michael Mann’s “Heat”.
If you’ve followed Ritchie’s work through the action genre and you see Jason Statham in the appendix, expect something like “The Gentlemen” (2019) or “RocknRolla” (2008). “Wrath of Man” is grumpier; It’s subtly reserved for Ritchie’s flair and sarcasm.
Ritchie continues to borrow elements from Nolan, Mann, and his own previous work as cinematographer Alan Stewart (“Aladdin”, “The Gentlemen”) hovers over buildings and keeps the camera moving during the action. The first 10 minutes of “Wrath of Man” is better than the entirety of “The Gentlemen”.
“He’s overqualified,” notes a Fortico Security Company driver (think of a Brinks armored truck). His assessment of the company’s latest hiring, simply called H (Statham), is not wrong. Calm, relaxed, with little to say when a Fortico Security Truck with over 2 million cash is held up at gunpoint for just one week.
When H takes care of business, his colleagues are stunned. How can the guy who barely passed the rigorous gun, drive, and endurance tests take out a bunch of armed thugs in minutes without a scratch? The company calls H a hero; his new comrades now all want to ride by his side. H’s presence at Fortico has nothing to do with the robbery they suffered a month ago when two veterans and a bystander were killed.
The work of the composer Christopher Benstead on this film did not go unheard. Its deep base also comes from the Dark Knight series. It’s the kind of music that not only helps what’s going on, but creates much of the tension on the screen and requires your full, undivided attention.
Part of Ritchie withdrawing part of its signature style means discovering a new style. There’s a real embrace from the dark, from the cloakroom, the lighting, even the silence. Here “Wrath of Man” moves into the area of John Wick.
You’ve never heard of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” being used the way Ritchie uses it here. Violence is the starting point for a Ritchie film, but the automatic gun tones are pulsating and it ensures that the viewer gets a close look at this in detail.
The real tension of the film is to guess who the inner man is. What works against this movie and everything with Statham is that it only signs up for one type of role and the ending is always inevitable.
Ritchie also makes a statement about predators and, like most, think they are invincible because they forget to look up the food chain. Andy Garcia, who only has two small scenes, gets the most ritchie-esque dialogue in the entire film, but the rest is devoid of carefree moments.
Until we get to the last act I won’t spoil anything, but “Wrath of Man” is much more like the opening sequence of “The Dark Knight” than just thematic elements. It’s like writers Nicolas Boukhrief and Éric Besnard were inspired by the first 10 minutes of Joker’s underhanded robbery and turned it into a scary action thriller.
Final thought: Guy Ritchie reticent reveals the director’s darkest work yet.
Dustin Chase is a film critic and associate editor for Texas Art & Film, based in Galveston. visit texasartfilm.com.