Revenge is a dished best served cold. Given the previous characters that Jason Statham has played in the past, a character of that mold would be a match made in heaven. A man with a cold, piercing stare that has nothing on his mind but to enact pain on those who wronged him. Based on the 2004 French film, Cash Truck, director Guy Pierce and Statham reunite for the first time since 2005’s Revolver. Pierce combines his visual style with Statham’s well-known action prowess to make an all-encompassing film that tries to be a little more than a one-note, one-track quest for retribution.
Patrick “H” Hill (Jason Statham) arrives to work for an armored car money transport company that endured a tragic robbery some time prior. When Bullet (Holt McCallany) tries to get him acclimated to his fellow workers, ‘H’ meets them with almost emotionless responses. When fellow security transport guards, Boy Sweat Dave (Josh Hartnett) and Dana Curtis (Niamh Algar) are suspicious of the new guy, there are scenes filled with quippy one-liner rebuttals. Looks can deceive because the first act of Wrath of Man follows many cop-type tropes – at least in the beginning. Some dialogue can sound cheesy because it seems like the characters are just trying to corner each other into a ‘gotcha’ moment. To where these conversations branch into some unnatural interactions.
On a routine job, a group of robbers attempts to steal money from a car that H is on. As they find out, that is a fatal mistake as he kills them all quickly. Much to the surprise of his co-workers, they wonder why is H there and how he became so skilled. What is the sudden motive of this mysterious hero? Once the movie steps out of the awkward introductory phase of the first act, it really shines. Statham’s cold and stoic portrayal as “H” is used to its best ability here. If there’s any pain, it’s hidden behind a hyped-focused thirst to reclaim a sense of due process. Christopher Benstead’s score adds to his foreboding presence as the instrumentation speaks when he doesn’t. Pierce allows Statham to hit in dark rooms and fester of the tragic circumstances that lead him to this point. The movie goes through phases of flashbacks and even ‘chapters’ that are marked by a standout piece of dialogue.
As you go forth in the film, you find out that it’s not just centered on ‘H’s story. Rather, the characters and circumstances around him get the spotlight as well. It’s this plot choice by co-writers Pierce, Ivan Atkinson, and Marn Davies that brings some freshness to what you have settled for a conventional story. Led by Jackson (Jeffrey Donovan), a group of ex-army vets that comprises actors such as Laz Alonso, Scott Eastwood, and more become disgruntled with civilian life at home. Together, they decide to use their tactical knowledge to rob money trucks. There’s a convergence point where the group and H meet and their lives are changed for good. Everything builds up to this final meet-up with some hint of distinction in the ranks. (Millions of dollars will do that).
The action-scene touch from Pierce is abundant through Wrath of Man; whether it comes from interrogations, heists, or car chases. There’s a composition of scenes where characters are discussing plans while it plays out on screen. It ups the stakes and heightens an awareness that anybody could be the victor. The film could have elected to show one viewpoint on a man with a list of names. One by one, acting as a de facto angel-of-death figure wielding the heavy hand of personal justice. It works to Statham’s strengths, but in Wrath of Man, there’s no ‘good guy.’ A couple of twists and turns are present to keep the audience guessing about allegiances. While there are themes present one could find in other action movies, Wrath of Man diverges from the script enough to provide an entertaining experience.
Photo Credit: United Artists Releasing