What director Guy Ritchie’s “Wrath of Man” lacks in the humor of his previous crime films like “Snatch” or “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” he makes up for in an above-average throwback to one-man wrecking crew movies where a mysterious stranger appears and spells trouble for the bad guys who can’t quite make him out.
Jason Statham stars as said stranger and is quickly given the appropriately mysterious nickname H (for his last name Hill) by his new employers, an armored car service in Los Angeles. Barely passing the test to be a cash truck security guard, H is hired to deliver millions of dollars around the city. Warned of a recent robbery in which two guards were killed, H’s trained on a ride along by colleagues with equally witty handles: Bullet (Holt McCallany) and Boy Sweat Dave (Josh Hartnett). The ride along is quickly halted by a crew out to rob them. While delivering the money to the thieves, H surprises his fellow guards by proving to be a crack shot. Neatly killing the robbers that belie his 70% shooting range score, H becomes a company hero to the owner and a loose cannon to everyone else.
More surprising than H’s expert marksmanship is what happens on a follow-up cash truck delivery. Once again targeted by thieves, Bullet and H are forced to abandon their truck when a smoke bomb is thrown inside the truck. When the smoke clears, the robbers recognize H and retreat. Bullet nervously conveys this to Boy Sweat Dave- who is H to make the bad guys run away?
What “Wrath of Man” lacks in originality, it satisfies in straightforward storytelling. Dividing the film into four sections, Ritchie quickly gets plot points out of the way. After the aforementioned set-up, the other sections reveal the mystery behind H, the armed robbing crew H will soon tangle with, and the entanglement- a procedural planning of a robbery with a shootout finale.
Staged like an urban Western, “Wrath of Man” scratches the itch of anyone who enjoys the inherent machismo of films like this. Statham’s H has the same silent, cold calculation of Clint Eastwood in “Fistful of Dollars” or Lee Marvin in “Point Blank.” H being in cash trucks constantly targeted for robbery makes as much sense as stagecoaches being constantly targeted by bandits, but without it, where’s your wrath? Suspending some disbelief and taking it straight makes movies like this go down as smooth as a belt of bourbon.
Based on the 2004 French film “Cash Truck,” “Wrath of Man” is reminiscent of Michael Mann’s 1995 crime saga “Heat” but without “Heat’s” character development and lengthy subplots. More an homage to hombres, “Wrath” requires you to answer only one question: Quien es mas macho? Statham es mas macho. That’s the kind of wrath Ritchie and Statham are serving.