Monday, May 10, 2021


 by Patrick Bromley

Guy Ritchie's new best movie.

It may seem like damning a movie with faint praise to refer to it as "Guy Ritchie's best." He's a filmmaker whose body of work can most generously be called inconsistent, with fewer than five I'd say I genuinely like. He's spent the last decade or so making big-budget blockbusters, a genre for which he's particularly poorly suited -- movies like King Arther: Legend of the Sword, his two Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey Jr., and the execrable Aladdin. Only his 2015 adaption of Man From U.N.C.L.E. worked in a quirky, funky way, and when he attempted to go back to basics and make a real "Guy Ritchie movie" with The Gentlemen, the results felt like fan fiction -- the sort of crime picture that polluted the marketplace in the post-Tarantino landscape of the late '90s and early 2000s. It's this pollution for which Ritchie is often and unfairly blamed.

With Wrath of Man, Ritchie returns to the crime genre, but now comes at it from a different angle. There's nothing arch or comic here. This is some dark and serious shit. Gone is Ritchie's usual reliance on bullet comedy, in which characters either want to kill someone or don't want to be killed and victims are shot as punchlines. Gone are the larger-than-life and colorful characters. In its place is a grim, violent tale that's part revenge story, part heist picture. The screenplay by Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson, and Marn Davies still relies on somewhat labyrinthe plotting and skewed chronology, but here feels less gimmicky and more satisfying than in films past. Whatever it is he's now doing differently, it's working.

Reuniting with Jason Statham is a good first step. Ritchie is the director who helped make Statham a star in movies like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, but the pair have largely parted ways ever since as each has pursued big Hollywood projects, with the exception of that one time they reunited for the Kabbala-influenced Revolver, maybe the weirdest failure on Ritchie's resume but one of the more interesting ones at that. Here, Statham plays a man called only H, who goes to work as a security guard at a Los Angeles-based cash truck company. He's mysterious and seemingly overqualified, probably because he's there for very specific reasons, which I wouldn't dream of spoiling here. The film has a rather simple premise, but goes about revealing that premise in a slow and deliberate way, only revealing a little bit of information at a time. It's a more compelling way of telling a story we've all been told before.

Ritchie still has some tendencies I could do without, chiefly the dialogue in the first third of the film. It's rough and requires getting past for what is otherwise an excellent crime film. Statham, who is always good at delivering exactly what we want from him, is particularly good here as a coiled cobra just waiting to strike, all patience and intensity. The supporting cast, populated by familiar faces (everyone from Josh Hartnett to Jeffrey Donovan to Post Malone), is a little more uneven, though none of the weaker links have a big enough role to derail the whole thing. As an ensemble, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The real standout is the score by Christopher Benstead, with a memorable cello line that's equally tense and exciting and altogether gorgeous.
After a decade spent punching above his weight and making movies that are trying to be so much bigger than they need to be, it's great to see Guy Ritchie back making a movie that knows exactly what it's trying to do and executing it so well. Wrath of Man may not convert any new fans of the filmmaker, but it's a very good crime picture that's both right in his wheelhouse and dares to be darker and more adult. It's Man on Fire meets Heat by way of Guy Ritchie, and I can't blame you if that doesn't sound like your shit. Turns out it's totally mine.


  1. PHEW! I was stoked to see you tweet that you dug this flick and moreso to read your write up. I COMPLETELY agree with your assessment of Ritchie's portfolio. He's pretty vexing to me as a director as Lock Stock had a HUUUUUGE impact on me. It was almost on the scale (and timing) of when i caught Pulp Fiction and Clerks at an art house theater in Chicago before they blew up. Like movies so good i wanted to know everything i could about the director and assumed id love their output forever. In Ritchie's case he had me for a while but then i just didnt connect..and kinda lost interest. And flicks that i fully expected to love..that couldnt a RDJ fronted Sherlock Holmes..left me feeling "meh". So i am reallllllly stoked to see comments from you and other movie fans i follow saying how much they dug Wrath of Man. Cant wait to check it out!!

  2. Count me in the "not for me camp". I guess it is my fault for expecting and wanting a certain style and tone from Ritchie as opposed to this overly grim slog. This was not what I was looking for, but I am sure fans who maybe don't have my limited range for what I want in a Guy Ritchie movie will enjoy it more for what it is, rather than what it is not.

  3. Ahh man, love this review and now that I finally saw the movie love that I can finally read it (I knew you wouldn't spoil it but still wanted to wait!). Score is great. On the labyrinth structure, it reminded me of a South Korean revenge movie with all the intricate and elaborate ways of getting to the end. Loved it!

    And heck yes, LOVE that you mentioned Revolver as interesting. It certainly is. I like it. Would make for a good show in the future!!!