For their fourth collaboration, Jason Statham and director Guy Ritchie adapt a French thriller into a straight-up Hollywood-style blood-and-bullets vengeance tale.
“Wrath of Man” thus becomes Ritchie’s most American film, totally free of the Cockney sass and mordant, morbid wit of the movies that launched both director and star back in Blighty — “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch.”
He embraces the harsh light of Los Angeles, the open spaces and hair trigger gunplay of America for a brutal and blood-spattered remake of “Le Convoyeur,” a 2004 French thriller (sometimes found on Netflix) about “cash trucks” and the men who rob them.
Statham plays a guy whose assorted aliases often include the name “Hill.” But as he undergoes a day of testing for his new job — guarding cash trucks for Fortico armored car delivery company.
“The limey” may rub new colleagues (Josh Hartnett among them) the wrong way. They see him as a “dark horse,” hard to read but someone to be wary of. But he impresses his trainer/partner (Holt McCallany) and his boss (Eddie Marsan). And as the company just lost a couple of drivers in a meticulously-planned robbery that turned bloody, they’re just grateful to have him around.
The first time he’s tested is a very bad day for the bad guys (singer Post Malone among them). The “dark horse” starts to smell like a “psychopath.” Who IS this guy?
We flash back to see H’s previous life on the other side of this “predator/prey” equation. He had a son. Emphasis on “had.” There’s a mysterious military-grade gang (Jeffrey Donovan and Scott Eastwood, et al) that aren’t be to be trifled with.
And of course there’s a Fed (Andy Garcia, almost stealing the movie) who knows things, who says “Let the painter paint” of his bald, British quarry. He’s the sort who might look the other way is one man’s revenge serves his higher purposes.
“Do your worst. Just be mindful, I can look ‘confused’ only so long.”
Ritchie eschews most of the jokiness his gangster movies are famous for in search of a more American look and feel here. This is Howard Hawks meets William Friedkin (“To Live and Die in LA”), a man’s world of manly men “built for combat, not daytime TV.”
Yes, there’s entirely too much of that macho blather. And Ritchie’s search for an epic climax kind of denies us of the vintage Statham coup de grace that have become the Olympian turned husky-voiced action star’s trademark.
But the casting sparkles, with Marsan, McCallany, Donovan and Irish actress Niamh Algar (of TV’s “The Virtues” and “The Last Right” making strong impressions.
Garcia and Statham are “on the nose” casting at its finest.
“Wrath of Man” passes muster for its mayhem and mise en scene, a good-looking but unfussy film that may not work its flashbacks in as gracefully as you’d like, breaks into “chapters” that do nothing for its flow, yet makes its violence and vengeance as grimly gripping and visceral as any Ritchie had put on the screen.
MPA Rating: R for strong violence throughout, pervasive language, and some sexual references
Cast: Jason Statham, Scott Eastwood, Josh Hartnett, Jeffrey Donovan, Holt McCallany, Niamh Algar, Babs Olusanmokun, Post Malone and Andy Garcia
Credits: Directed by Guy Ritchie, script by Guy Ritchie, Marn Davies and Ivan Atkinson, based on the French film “Le Convoyeur (Cash Truck).” An MGM/Miramax release.
Running time: 1:58