*. I was initially misled by the DVD box cover. Yes, Jason Statham and Guy Ritchie had me thinking BritCrime, but there was also that tweed three-piece suit that Statham is wearing. So this is London, right?
*. Well, I’m not sure but I don’t think Statham ever wears that suit, or anything like it, in Wrath of Man. And we’re not in London but Los Angeles. But I think I should be excused for not picking up on that since the opening credits are pure Bond and the introductory scene plays out from a very restricted point of view. It’s an armored car heist shot from a fixed position within the armored car and while we can hear a lot of different voices we can’t be sure what’s going on.
*. This is actually important because we’re going to keep coming back to this scene, with a little more information dropped in every time through a process of what literary critics once referred to as delayed decoding.
*. So it’s a BritCrime picture set in L.A., though mainly shot in London. Except it’s also a 2004 French film named Cash Truck (Le Convoyeur) that Ritchie was remaking, only it’s not quite as dark as that movie. Wrath of Man is plenty dark, I think, but there are limits to what a more mainstream Hollywood pic was going to allow.
*. I really enjoyed Wrath of Man, mainly because Ritchie dialed things back. He could have been all stunts and Steven Soderbergh slickness, but except for one eye-rolling aerial-camera roll he plays that stuff down. Compare that opening heist to the similar scene in Heat, which is its most obvious precursor. Then listen and instead of an endless sampling of hip tunes and classic rock you’ll only hear a louring, repetitive theme that sounds like the turning wheels of fate.
*. Another aspect of the dialing down has to do with the violence. This is a violent movie but it’s surprising how many of the major characters get killed off screen. We don’t see bodies disintegrating in hails of bullets. And with that darkness I mentioned there are a lot of important bodies that pile up. There’s a relentless spiral of violent death in the final act wherein nearly the entire cast is disposed of in a manner that’s almost cursory.
*. Speaking of those hails of bullets, does body armour protect you that much from automatic rifle fire? I really don’t think so. You’d certainly be getting knocked clear off your feet. But it’s a movie gunfight so I guess we have to let all that stuff go.
*. At times the pace flags, the ending is a let down, and there are plot twists that I really didn’t think made sense, but overall this is very nicely turned out heist picture that doesn’t make many wrong moves. Ritchie and Statham are both in fine form, the bad guys credibly professional and distinctly realized, and the way the film grinds out its tale of revenge feels like a fresh take on an old story, whether it’s playing in Paris, London, or L.A.