Guy Ritchie’s new film “Wrath of Man” opens much like Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight,” which was inspired by Michael Mann’s “Heat."
If you have followed Ritchie’s work through the action genre, and you see Jason Statham attached you expect something like “The Gentlemen” (2019) or “RocknRolla” (2008). “Wrath of Man” is more morose; it’s sophisticatedly restrained for Ritchie’s brand of flair and sarcasm.
Ritchie continues to borrow elements from Nolan, Mann and his own previous work as cinematographer Alan Stewart (“Aladdin," “The Gentlemen”) hovers above buildings and keeps the camera in motion with the action. The first 10 minutes of “Wrath of Man” is better than the entirety of “The Gentlemen."
“He’s overqualified,” notes a Fortico Security Company driver (think Brinks armored truck). His assessment of the company’s latest hire simply called H (Statham), isn’t wrong. Calm, composed, with little to say, when only a week on the job a Fortico Security Truck carrying over 2 million in cash is held up at gun point.
When H takes care of business, his fellow agents are stunned. How does the guy who barely passed the rigorous arms, driving and stamina test, take out a slew of armed thugs in a matter of minutes without a scratch? The company calls H a hero; his new comrades all want to ride along side him now. H’s presence at Fortico isn’t unrelated to the robbery they suffered a month ago, where two veteran agents and a bystander were killed.
Composer Christopher Benstead’s work on this film doesn’t go unheard. His deep base also borrows from the Dark Knight series. It’s the kind of music that doesn’t just aid what’s happening, it creates much of the tension that’s on screen and demands your full, undivided attention.
Part of Ritchie pulling back some of his signature style means discovering new style. There is a real embrace of gloom, from the wardrobe, the lighting, even the silence. This is where “Wrath of Man” moves into John Wick territory.
You’ve never heard Johnny Cash’s "Folsom Prison Blues" used like Ritchie uses it here. Violence is starting point for a Ritchie flick, but the automatic weapon sounds are pulse pounding, and he makes sure the viewer sees these fired up close, in detail.
The real suspense of the film becomes guessing who’s the inside man. What works against this film and anything starring Statham, is he only signs up for one type of role and the ending is always inevitable.
Ritchie also makes a statement on predators, and how most think they are invincible because they forget to look up in the food chain. Andy Garcia who only has two small scenes, gets the most Ritchie-esque dialogue of the entire film, but the remainder is without light-hearted moments.
By the time we get to the final act, and I won’t spoil anything, but “Wrath of Man” is much more like the opening sequence to “The Dark Knight” than just thematic elements. It's as if writers Nicolas Boukhrief and Éric Besnard were inspired by the first 10 minutes of Joker’s sneaky heist and adapted that into a sinister-action thriller.
Final Thought: Guy Ritchie restrained unveils the director's darkest work to date.