In the 23 years that Guy Ritchie has been making feature films, he has gone through the usual ups-and-downs of most filmmakers. He’s arguably succeeded the most when making films set in his native England, with attempts to expand his reach usually panned. His latest is Wrath of Man, a film so unentertaining that even those who hate Ritchie’s normal style will be wishing he’d go back to his usual tricks.
The film starts with what becomes its defining event, a robbery of an armored Fortico Security truck that is carrying millions of dollars. Flash cut to a few months later when Patrick Hill (Jason Statham) gets hired on as a new employee at Fortico, quickly showing an unusual skill for stopping other potential robberies in their tracks.
Turns out that Hill, or “H” as his new co-workers call him, has a very particular and personal reason for coming to work for them. The bulk of the film is spent going over that reason, re-examining the opening scene from multiple angles, and delving into why Hill is a person who should be feared by anyone who crosses him.
The film, written by Ritchie, Marn Davies, and Ivan Atkinson, takes nearly every wrong step one could take when trying to make a good movie. The dialogue is laughable right from the start, with stilted conversations and a plethora of one-liners that elicit eyerolls instead of laughter. These bon mots are typified by a scene where H’s training officer at Fortico, Bullet (Holt McCallany), introduces him as “H … like the bomb or Jesus H.” The screenwriters try to establish color through the dialogue, but they go much too hard much too quickly
All of this would be forgivable if the action was any good, but none of it makes any sense either. At first H seems like a lone wolf, and his talent for violence is intriguing. But his backstory brings in a whole lot of elements that fail to connect the dots well, and then the film takes a pivot to an entirely different group, mucking up the plot even more. Mindless action takes a backseat to complicated story machinations, with none of it being any fun.
Once the dialogue and action go south, it becomes all too easy to pick apart the rest of the film too. The music by Christopher Benstead only has one level throughout — intense — which is fine for action scenes but doesn’t mesh well with such mundane sequences like an early training exercise. They try to amp up the testosterone by having Fortico use a pseudo-military force, an idea that doesn’t fit the job description. And they include a token female in an all-male group, something that is a cliche at best and patronizing at worst, especially as she gets very little to do in the film.
Oh, did I mention the horrendous acting? Yeah, there’s nothing redeemable there, either. Statham is so wooden he might as well be a tree, and known quantities like McCallany, Eddie Marsan, Josh Hartnett, and Scott Eastwood fail to uplift the film at all. The movie is mostly filled with unknown actors looking to make a name for themselves, but none of them prove they’re worth anything more than B-movie status.
Ritchie made a comeback of sorts with 2020’s highly entertaining The Gentlemen, but if that was one step forward, then Wrath of Man is at least three steps back. It contains none of Ritchie’s flair for dialogue or staging, and the level of acting the film contains gives it no chance to succeed.
Wrath of Man opens in theaters on May 7.