Wrath of Man

For the first forty-five minutes, Wrath of Man is one of Jason Statham's best movies. Then it becomes a generic “Jason Statham movie” and all the fun goes away. It's not the actor's fault, it's the screenplay's. This has got to be the one millionth revenge-oriented action flick. The only original element is the setting. Well, okay, that and a scene where Statham takes on rapper Post Malone, who has a small role as a thug. Otherwise, predictability is the order of the day here.

Statham plays “H,” an intense, laconic, Jason Statham-like guy. He gets a job working as a guard for an armored car company. Someone has been robbing their trucks, getting away with millions of dollars in the process. Before starting work, H has to be trained in defensive driving, firearms use, etc. One character points out that he seems “overqualified” for the job. Of course he is. He has no interest in protecting the company's money; he's looking for Jan (Scott Eastwood), a figure from his past who is connected to the robberies.

There are a bunch of other characters, although none of them are particularly important. Holt McCallany and Josh Hartnett play fellow drivers, Eddie Marsan is the boss, and Jeffrey Donovan is one of the main thieves. Andy Garcia is on board, too, phoning in his performance as a crime lord. The actor appears thoroughly bored. In fairness, maybe that was a choice.

The best scenes are the early ones showing the inner workings of an armored car company – the procedures followed, the precautions taken, the mindset of those who put themselves at risk every time they get behind the wheel. Because this is such an unusual world in which to set a movie, it's easy to get sucked into the details. An air of mystery about H adds to the effect, as we can tell he's not quite what he purports to be. We wait with anticipation to discover his angle.

Once we get that piece of information, everything goes downhill and Wrath of Man becomes a generic extended shootout. The entire back half is stereotypical gunplay. Oddly, Statham is even sidelined for a bit, as focus briefly shifts to the criminals. Then he comes roaring back to shoot people, shoot some more people, and then continue shooting people. When everyone who needs to be shot has been shot, the credits roll.

Wrath of Man was directed by Guy Ritchie, a filmmaker far more interested in crafting slick scenes of violence than in storytelling. You'll definitely find lots of violence in the movie, much of it extremely graphic. None of it feels particularly original. I can't think of a single action scene that stands out. Ritchie uses a jumbled time-frame that forbids the story from generating tension. After an opening sequence, it jumps three months ahead, then five weeks backward, then a month ahead, and so on. Perhaps he was trying to freshen up the generic nature of the plot, but the effect is more to slow down any momentum he's trying to build.

For his part, Statham is typically good. Something about him is always fun to watch, regardless of the overall quality of the movie itself. You couldn't necessarily distinguish one of his characters from another, since the majority of them are tailored to his specific onscreen persona. Nevertheless, he's an actor who does his particular thing so enthusiastically that I don't mind watching it another time. Wrath of Man's first half proves that he's up for more ambitious fare. The second half proves he can still be the best thing in a mediocre movie.

out of four

Wrath of Man is rated R for strong violence throughout, pervasive language, and some sexual references. The running time is 1 hour and 58 minutes.