Your typical Guy Ritchie protagonist is a brash, loud person who won’t shut the hell up. That’s doubly true of Guy Ritchie protagonists played by Jason Statham. So far, the duo has worked together on four movies, with Statham’s characters generally carrying the kind of Ritchie-movie swaggering bravado that can come off as charming or abrasive, depending on the role, the film, and the audience. Ritchie famously discovered the actor while Statham was selling fake perfume and jewelry on the streets of London — the director needed to cast a con artist in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Statham had on-the-job experience.
In the stellar Los Angeles-set crime thriller Wrath of Man, which you can (and should) watch now on Paramount Plus (it was on Hulu, but left the platform less than 24 hours after being added), Statham’s lead character could accurately be described as “Guy Ritchie protagonist: quiet variant.” He’s cold, calculating, and not very talkative. The film is a little less manic, a little less exaggerated, and a lot less chatty than previous Ritchie/Statham collaborations like Snatch, which works to Wrath of Man’s benefit and makes it worth a watch now that it’s on streaming.
Based on the 2004 French thriller Cash Truck, Wrath of Man is a four-part, non-linear story about one explosive event and its ripple effect on the protagonist and the people around him. Five months after a deadly armored-car heist, the company that was robbed hires “H” (Statham) as its newest security guard. He barely passes his weapons test, and he walks in with a low profile and low expectations from his new co-workers. But when another robbery attempt occurs and H jumps into action with a chilling display of violence, his new co-workers are shocked and impressed.
Ritchie has filmed some incredible action sequences over the course of his career (I am a documented defender of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and I will not apologize), but he reaches new heights with Wrath of Man’s action beats, building a mystique around Statham’s mostly silent character with brutal efficiency in the violent scenes. When foes run away from him (including Post Malone, in a brief role), he stalks after them like a slasher villain before coldly putting them away. (YouTube commenter “ThatGuyOverThere” accurately described it as “what happens when a champion player enters a gold lobby.”)
Like the similarly stellar recent LA-based heist thriller Den of Thieves and LA crime classics like Heat, Wrath of Man uses the unique geography of wide-open Los Angeles to great effect, especially in the first few vehicle-centric action sequences, which take place on the roads. (One of the early action beats is backgrounded by soaring palm trees and a crystal-clear blue sky.) The movie is filled with aerial shots of the city, showcasing crisscrossing highways and the LA city lights gleaming in the night. Slick editing from frequent Ritchie collaborator James Herbert and a heart-pounding score by Christopher Benstead (one of the Oscar-winning Gravity sound team) elevate the already stellar action sequences, culminating in a climactic Black Friday heist attempt that delivers on the 90-plus minutes of tension that precede it.
Wrath of Man also has a typically solid supporting cast (Andy Garcia, Eddie Marsan, Jeffrey Donovan, among many others) with classic Ritchie character names (including Holt McCallany as “Bullet” and Josh Hartnett as the odious “Boy Sweat”). If you like action thrillers or heist movies, you should watch this at the very least as an exercise in craft. Who knew a quiet, restrained version of a Ritchie/Statham crime thriller could pack such a punch?