What makes a Guy Ritchie movie unique? They tend to star world-class cinematic butt-kicker Jason Statham. Ritchie and Statham’s extended collaboration kicked off in 1998 with “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” followed by “Snatch” and “Revolver.”
What else is unique? They tend to be about the seedy, seamy, low-class, British crime underworld. And they’re very funny. It’s a brutally hilarious genre; it’s not the upper-class twits portrayed by Monty Python, but it’s related by way of Americans enjoying thuggish-looking Brit actors saying funny things in Cockney accents.
These are movies that tough guys (make that: guys with no inclination whatsoever to question their gender identity) like to watch; spit beer through their noses, and slap their knees. I’m all for it—big Ritchie fan here—forgoing, of course (and conceding), the argument that all such violent, wacky tales about the rancid London underbelly are pretty much useless in terms of having any kind of a positive effect on society.
2019’s gangster caper “The Gentlemen” saw Ritchie return to his wheelhouse after a run of genre-hopping fails with “Aladdin,” “King Arthur,” and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” So one had hoped that “Wrath of Man,” the fourth Statham-Ritchie collaboration (in theaters Friday May 7th), would reveal a honing of the craft, an evolution, be funnier, be cleverer, be something new and improved.
What happens if you take away the unique and exotic British humor, transpose the setting from London to America, and add some stupifyingly bad dialogue? It’s suddenly just not funny anymore. How else has Ritchie trashed his own wheelhouse? By casting a couple of actors as heavies who are Just. Not. Heavy. More on that in a bit.
Statham plays Patrick Hill, known simply as “H.” He’s the latest employee at a Los Angeles Brink’s truck type security firm, now hiring to increase staff after a recent robbery of one its armored trucks killed two guards.
H phones in his fitness test, but we know better. He is, after all, ripped, concrete-headed, stubble-bearded, lantern-jawed Jason Statham who can flying-kick down a hardwood front door, thereby knocking the house-owner out in one fell swoop. So when he’s finally out on a money-run in the truck, and it gets hit by automatic-weapon-toting robbers, he bloweth them all away with a mere handgun and does not sweat even slightly.
This is, of course, a tale of revenge. Turns out, H’s teenage son was a victim of collateral damage; killed for being a witness to previous crimes perpetrated by this same crew of baddies. H intends to rain down immediate retribution and send them all to hell.
That Was the Synopsis
What else… oh yeah—bad acting. The most egregious mistake is casting Scott, son of Clint, Eastwood, as a heavy. Here’s a rule of thumb in showbiz: the tall, statuesque, male-model-y looking guys—they’re can’t believably play heavies. They would like to be heavy, and mean, and intimidating, but they mostly carry something a little too noble in their souls to be able to pull it off. They can do romantic, and funny, and sarcastic … but they’re not scary.
Heck, Clint is twice the actor his son is, and even he’s not heavy. He can play mean, but it’s always leavened by humor. Scott Eastwood, even with a scary-looking facial battle-scar is just not good casting for a psychotic ex-special forces operator-turned-hardened-criminal.
Josh Hartnett, another tall, dark, handsome fellow, plays a fellow guard, and while he’s been doing some laudable work in the weight room, he’s not believable in the role.
Lastly, many of the supporting roles go to Europeans trying to be American and failing, such as Brit character actor Eddie Marsan, who, it must be said, has been believably American elsewhere. If you want dead-on American accents from male Brits, you get Bob Hoskins, Christian Bale, or Gary Oldman.
It’s understandable that artists want to branch out and do something different. It gets stifling in the wheelhouse. But it becomes clearer with each new movie, that Ritichie might want to just, you know, stay in there, maybe bring in some plants, an air purifier, paint the place, and buy some new furniture.
‘Wrath of Man’
Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Jason Statham, Andy Garcia, Josh Hartnett, Scott Eastwood, Jeffrey Donovan, Holt McCallany, Eddie Marson, Rocci Williams
Running Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes
Release Date: May 7, 2021
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Mark Jackson is the senior film critic for The Epoch Times. Mark has 20 years experience as a professional New York actor, a classical theater training, a BA in philosophy, and recently narrated the Epoch Times audiobook, “How the Specter of Communism is Ruling Our World”: https://www.thespecterofcommunism.com/en/audiobook/
Rotten Tomatoes page: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/mark-jackson/movies