During one of the many, many armored-car heist sequences in “Wrath of Man,” the assailants spatter the windows with black paint, leaving the driver of the vehicle and his partner in the dark, unable to tell what the hell is going on and why.
Great. Now they know how we feel.
Guy Ritchie’s latest effort – a remake of the 2004 French film “Le Convoyeur” aka “Cash Truck” – plays like a halfhearted cover version of Ritchie’s best kinetic actioners, so why do we need this when we already have “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” “Snatch” and even last year’s fantastically cockeyed “The Gentlemen”?
Spoiler alert: We don’t.
Tired, uninspired and meandering, “Wrath of Man” is a step backward for Ritchie, a step sideways for the stoic-for-life Jason Statham (teaming with Ritchie for the first time in 16 years) and a misstep for anyone who invests their time and money on 118 minutes of such convoluted and forgettable nonsense. This is the kind of movie where even the poster isn’t consistent with the film itself; the advertising artwork depicts a bruised Statham in a beautifully tailored suit, indicating he might be playing some sort of high-end bodyguard or elite jewel thief or millionaire mercenary, when in fact his character shambles about in dad khakis, black zip-up sweaters and security guard uniforms.
Much more disconcerting is a storyline that serpentines this way and that, hopping all over the timeline – a favorite hallmark of Ritchie’s, but rarely employed to such underwhelming effect. A whiplash-inducing change in POV leaves Statham on the sidelines for a good chunk of time and makes us feel as if we’ve been plunged into an entirely different movie, for no great reason. If we’re gonna have a Jason Statham movie, let’s have Jason Statham around nearly all of the time – and oh, yeah, let’s not disguise him in body armor and a reflective helmet in the penultimate action scene, making it virtually impossible to distinguish him from a half-dozen other gun-wielding men.
Statham plays Patrick Hill, a security specialist who has just been hired as an armed guard at a private, Los Angeles-based cash truck firm known as Fortico Securities. On Hill’s first day on the job, the veteran and likable Bullet (Holt McCallany from “Mindhunter”), the de facto clubhouse leader of the organization, dubs him H, “like the bomb or Jesus H,” ha ha ha. Our man H barely passed the firearm accuracy and driving tests to qualify for the job, and his new partner, the cocky Boy Sweat Dave (Josh Hartnett), mocks H and tells him to stay out of his way – but when the bleep hits the fan and gunmen try to take down the truck, Boy Sweat Dave is more like Flop Sweat Dave, and H coolly and efficiently mows down every last henchman. Something doesn’t add up about this guy, says Eddie Marsan’s Terry, the exec who runs the company – a sentiment echoed by a number of others who see H in action and realize he’s not some journeyman security guard.
Gee. Ya think?
Turns out H runs his own elite squad of lethal killers, and though it’s not entirely clear what these guys specialize in, they spring into action and start hunting down, torturing and executing suspects after H’s son Dougie (Eli Brown) is in the wrong place at the wrong time and is gunned down. (We learn the full story in flashback.) Meanwhile, as H thwarts yet another attempted robbery of a Fortico armored car, we shift gears and find ourselves in a movie about a group of disgruntled, restless and bored American combat veterans who start pulling off heists because they’re, well, disgruntled, restless and bored.
Top-tier actors such as Jeffrey Donovan, who plays the leader of the squad, a family man with a loving wife and two adoring children, and Scott Eastwood, portraying the obligatory scar-faced, crazy-eyed, bloodthirsty killer who’s in it more for the action than the money, are wasted in paper-thin roles. But at least we know who these guys are and what they’re all about, as opposed to Andy Garcia’s Agent King, who is apparently the king of all agents at … some agency, and either used to be or still is H’s boss and exists primarily to look the other way while H presides over the murders of a number of notorious scumbags who might have been tied to his son’s murder.
After an overlong heist sequence that only serves to remind us how difficult it is to match up to films such as “Heat,” there’s an epilogue that’s entirely unsurprising and not the least bit satisfying, in large part because the main villain was never fleshed out and just seems like the last in a long, long line of killers and thieves who find themselves on the wrong end of H’s gun.