by Darryl Goh
Wrath of Man sets high expectations for itself. The movie’s glorious opening sequence recalls Greek mythology – think serpents and marble figures befitting such a film title –but when the credits rolled, it left me wondering if director Guy Ritchie aspired but failed to make a film more sophisticated than a typical action flick.
Jason Statham is H, a new security guard for a renowned cash truck firm who keeps a low profile until a gang tries to rob his truck. Emotionless but enigmatic, H does not flinch as he takes on the gang like a one-man army. He clearly has a history which he did not share. He is not much of a talker anyway.
The film relies heavily on going back and forth in time to slowly unmask H’s motivations. Piece the scenes together in chronological order, however, and you will start to realise some scenes felt more like clumsy band-aids to fix plot holes. Furthermore, the film gets messy with awkward transitions at times – around two-thirds in, new characters were introduced so randomly that I wondered if I forgot they were introduced earlier.
H’s stoic expression makes it difficult to feel emotionally invested in moments that are supposed to be touching, mostly because characters he cares about have very little screen time. They also tend to die as quickly as they are introduced, and this rough life unleashes H’s wrath.
Action is sparsely scattered but the climax makes the wait pay off satisfyingly. Action sequences make full use of Statham’s martial arts arsenal, and portraying H as a master marksman works because of Statham’s cool nature. While H’s enemies used rifles and machine guns, his humble pistol (on loan by the firm) killed more people than kingpins would ever dream of. He does eventually graduate to big guns at the climax, and no one is spared.
Some parts of this film are unintentionally funny because characters take themselves too seriously. I get that the film wants to make each character look cool, but standing-posing while discussing serious matters is not how to do it. It does not help when conversations veer into cringe territory, with gems such as “boredom is insulting, give me an enemy I can see”. But to no surprise, the characters who talk the most land up folding first when push comes to shove.
Nevertheless, the film excels best when characters fight, not speak. Once the climax begins, energy is kept high until the credits roll. Watch it on the big screen to get the most out of it: the gun shots are crisper, and H reducing enemies to pulp is more enjoyable.
As with the Fast and Furious franchise that Statham also stars in, Wrath of Man has an equally incoherent plot but makes up for it with spectacular, unbelievable action. The only difference is that there are way fewer cars. Just armoured trucks with tons of cash in them.