Statham and Ritchie release keen fury in ‘Wrath of Man’

“Wrath of Man” – Meet Patrick Hill (Jason Statham).  He applies for a job at Fortico Security, a private armored car company that transports millions of dollars from casinos, private banks, and department stores to their owners or whoever in greater Los Angeles.  Twelve trucks and one central hub can sometimes circulate up to 150 million dollars on a single day, so Fortico takes precautions with fortifying its facilities, vehicles, and workforce.

So, Patrick takes an 8-hour test to ensure that he has the right stuff, including a marksmanship exam, and he barely passed with crawling colors.

Still, what do they say?  D’s get degrees!

Hill’s mentor, Bullet (Holt McCallany), calls him H, and we discover that his new co-workers have affectionate monikers too, like Hollow Bob, Boy Sweat Dave, and Sticky John.  These handles sound like random punk bands that you might find at the Viper Room or Troubadour on a fervent Saturday evening, but when in Southern California…

Anyway, these employees are not punks.  Most – minus the mild-mannered manager Terry (Eddie Marsan) – have logged thousands of miles on the road of hard knocks, but they aren’t looking for trouble.  These capable lads (and one lass) are here to do one job: to safely and efficiently move plenty of cold, hard cash from Long Beach, Ventura, or Glendale to home base and collect their weekly paychecks.

The problem is that shadier forces in The City of Angels see these steel-reinforced chariots as ATMs, but this unknown mass of baddies use firearms, torches, and explosives rather than PINs to collect their windfalls.

Then again, these high-dollar crooks haven’t met H, a man whose co-workers soon refer to him as a “dark f***ing spirit” and a “psychopath.”

As director Guy Ritchie’s “Wrath of Man” plays out over 118 minutes, we discover that our psychopath has more than a smidge of vengeance on his mind, one fueled by a careless scenario that – in real life – has tormented innocent bystanders on roadways since the invention of the automobile.

Ritchie’s flick seems like a simple 1-2 premise on the surface, but it’s carefully layered and constructed.  He jumbles the on-screen timeline and slowly reveals all the leading players and their motivations, which effectively frames the circumstances of H’s rage and shadowy history.  Looking back, portraying the narrative on a linear stretch wouldn’t be nearly as engaging to the audience.  In other words, Ritchie and the five writers choose wisely.  Five writers?  Usually, so many pens scribing on the same page would be problematic, but this quintet appears to speak the same screenwriting language.

Of course, Ritchie donates his storytelling gifts too, as “Wrath of Man” lathers itself with his trademark gruff debate, visceral violence, and wisecracks, as the script drips with dread but also joyful machismo.  The score plays heavily on string bases and cellos because bad things have gone down, and the ominous trajectory continues south.  It’s a movie filled with (mostly) hard-hitting personas, as blokes on all sides wear black, but only some break the law.

This modern-day L.A. western feels like “Heat” (1995) meets “House of Games” (1987), and although this film isn’t as strong as the said two, Ritchie delivers plenty of straight-up gunplay and deception.  A most welcome duality-backdrop for our mysterious lone wolf, a man called H.

Oh, Mr. Statham, thank you for finding a career in movies.

⭐⭐⭐  out of  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Image credits:  United Artists Releasing; Trailer credits:  Movie Trailers Source

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