May 2021 saw the release of a new Guy Ritchie-directed thriller, Wrath of Man, with actor Jason Statham in the lead role. It’s the first time this duo had worked together since 2005’s Revolver and both offer some of their strongest work to date in an adaptation of writer/director Nicholas Boukhrief’s and writer Éric Besnard’s 2004 dramatic thriller Le Convoyeur. Given Ritchie’s penchant for gangster films that lean on comedy to defuse the tension and Statham’s natural knack for physical and comedic performances, you’ll be forgiven for presuming that Wrath of Man would be simple blood-soaked vengeance tale in the vein of Nobody (2021) or John Wick (2014), stories of wronged men unloading their rage to the delight of cinematic observers. While this does describe Wrath of Man in some respects, all the glee, the cartoonish nature of the previously mentioned films is absent, leaving the audience with something darker and more intense than potentially expected.
If you’re coming to Wrath of Man for the first time, I recommend checking out the initial theatrical review. What follows will most certainly explore spoilery content.
Patrick Hill (Statham) is a new hire for Fortico Securities, a company specializing in armored protection for financial services. Nicknamed H by his trainer and future coworker Bullet (Holt McCallany), despite his cool demeanor and extensive experience in the security business, H gets the bare minimum on his firearm and driving proficiency tests. But bare minimum is still a pass and he starts the gig. Soon after, his rig is hit by armed gunmen who’ve taken Bullet hostage. While third member of the team Boy Sweat (Josh Harnett) wants to follow protocol and leave, H refuses to leave anyone behind, taking on the heavily armed thieves single-handedly and with ease. While some at Fortico praise H for his grace under pressure, others begin to ask the better question: How could someone with H’s scores do so well? With each passing day H offers a new reason to investigate the stoic man begetting a new notion: Who is H really?
The marketing for Wrath of Man was built around the mystery of H’s identity and his particularly gifted set of skills. In a way, like Nobody, by placing this piece of information up front, the audience lost out on one mystery and was given a set of expectations instead. Imagine how excited you’d be to see the typically nebbish Odenkirk unload on a group of violent assholes without knowing that he’s capable of such an act. With Wrath, the violence in the marketing tells the audience that you’re going to get a Statham story you expect now (Hobbs & Shaw; Spy), setting the expectation that he’ll be wise-cracking his way through several ass-beatings. In truth, Wrath of Man, while not a cerebrally heavy film, isn’t so simple of a story. Yes it’s a vengeance story, one in which H is trying to track down the people who murdered his son, but the expectation is that Statham is a good guy. Why else would we root for him? The reality is not only that H is just as bad as Jan (Scott Eastwood), the man responsible, but is not much different than former Sargent Jackson (Jeffrey Donovan), the leader of the team whose armored car heist is what places H, his son, and Jan all in the same place. It’s treated as a minor thing in the film and is explained much later into the time-jumping forward/backward narrative, but H is at the scene of the heist only because his team was doing recon on Fortico signaling that they themselves were planning to pull the same job as Jackson’s men. As executed, it plays like a harbinger of doom as we know the innocent Dougie (Eli Brown) is about to die and H is going to be wounded, thereby setting into motion the events of the film which create our anti-hero. The thing is, beyond a few moments of generosity and some dialogue implying a certain honor code among H’s own team, there is no reason to consider him one. The audience knows nothing of H beyond his willingness to do brutally cruel things and that he’s connected enough to have mysterious government agents on his payroll (see: Andy Garcia’s Agent King). H is our protagonist, sure, but he’s no hero. He’s a force of unmitigated vengeance, unbending as bullets fly and people die. Given the biblical nature of the imagery in the title sequence, the easy comparison would be to consider H a wraith, scorching the earth with each footstep. Amid the violence, the true brutality of H’s actions, that’s an easy image to agree with, but, in so doing, would then forget that H is likely himself worthy of someone else’s wrath.
Fans of physical releases be advised: there are no special features included with this home release. Ritchie’s last film, The Gentlemen (2020), at least included three brief featurettes and a photo gallery. It’s possible that the pandemic made things difficult to either produce or include materials on the home release, though there have been plenty of other home releases since the lockdown of March 2020 that have included something to add to or offer insight on the cinematic experience. Boutique vendors like Criterion and Arrow have released editions with brand new materials in the form of interviews and essays (video or print) and even the Paramount Presents versions of the 48 Hrs. series had brief director-centric featurettes that were clearly shot via meeting software, like Zoom. The lack of materials on the home release frustrates because the reaction to Wrath seemed so diametrically different that possessing some sense of what Ritchie or others thought of the film would be delightful, especially to those who enjoyed the film. Additionally, be advised that there are only three options for ownership: digital and two physical (Blu or standard DVD). There is no 4K UHD option. Granted Alan Stewart’s (Aladdin) cinematography as well as Martyn John’s (The Red Violin, Art Director) production design and Stephanie Collie’s (Peaky Blinders) costuming doesn’t necessarily necessitate a 4K UHD release given the cloud that hovers over the film like a shroud, but as a newer format, it’s a bit of a surprise that the option isn’t available. To be fair, fellow MGM theatrical/Warner Bros. Picture home release Bill & Ted Face the Music was also given the same options, so maybe it’s an agreement issue with MGM, rather than a financial one. As an aside, Face the Music did contain four brief featurettes, as well as the entire 2020 Comic-Con@Home panel.
With so many films from the pandemic being sold off to streaming services, I remain grateful that Wrath of Man was not one of them solely because it means that a physical release is a near-guarantee. I can’t argue with the minimalism that streaming supports nor the ease of just being able to pull something up that’s not immediately within my grasp, but, when it comes to watching a film, there’s nothing better than watching from a physical format. The video and audio aren’t being compressed by your internet provider and then displayed through your tool of access (Xbox, Playstation, Apple TV, etc). Playing off of a physical disc offers the best version of picture and sound, even when it’s just the standard DTS-HD MA and Dolby Digital sound. The difference can be enormous when you notice it and, upon noticing it, is hard to ignore.
After the glee of The Gentlemen and the audaciousness of Aladdin (2019), Ritchie’s Wrath of Man feels like it’s composed by different director entirely. The shots themselves are simple stills or long flowing ones, individually lacking energy, relying entirely on the performances from the capable cast. Rather than see where the bullets land, Ritchie often focuses on the perpetrators, highlighting their cool exteriors, resulting in a film where the predators and the prey are easily identifiable. There’s a specific intentionality to Ritchie’s direction, suggesting a growth on the part of the director, one which I would certainly like to see more of in future projects. Same goes for Statham who has seemed very comfortable in his role as action/comedic star, but rarely takes on something meatier. Ritchie and Statham both have the chops to deliver weighted entertainment that challenges the audience to consider their own personal expectations and patronage. Snatch (2000) is incredible and Crank (2006) is loads of fun, but the persistent weight of Wrath of Man satisfies in a way the others do not.
Wrath of Man contains no special features.
Available on digital June 29th, 2021.
Availably on Blu-ray and DVD July 13th, 2021.