The dialogue doesn’t flow well, there isn’t an ounce of cleverness, and most everyone comes off as awkward. The characters are underdeveloped and those who do begin to wrangle themselves an arc never get a payoff. The best elements of Wrath of Man, which is based on the 2004 French film Cash Truck by Nicolas Boukhrief, echo the thrills of Michael Mann’s Heat. But instead of cops vs. robbers, it’s tweaked a bit to pit crime crews against each other. It’s still an all-or-nothing game though, featuring thrill-seekers making risky life choices they know might get them killed. The chewy, gristly themes of lawbreakers sacrificing family and Norman Rockwell “normality” for their chaotic career paths is ever-prevalent and once the movie starts to show us the other side of the story, the flip side of the coin, midway through it becomes interesting.
Structurally, the movie makes some curious choices. The chopped-up time frame — where it leaps ahead three months at one point and back five months for another — certainly helps the middle of the movie, but it makes the first act feel languid and flat. Not to spoil anything, but once we’re shown the true targets of H’s wrath the entire movie takes on a different shape and you actually might discover new characters to root for, in a perverse way. Then that all goes up in flames, for better or worse, during the carnage-coated third act. There are some good beats and some sequences of fun action, but then the ultimate resolution is rather predictable and plain.
Wrath of Man mixes together two hardened killer-style genres in a way that should work, as they’re not totally divergent, but the end result still feels wonky. Statham does his thing, and we don’t (and never?) want him to do more, but the film feels bereft when matched against the previous Statham/Ritchie projects. Talented people feel hung out to dry here, not given enough to do or, worse, dumb things to do. The attempt to set up red herrings for the mystery element seems to get dropped rather quickly so that when a big reveal happens it’s sort of textbook. By then you’ve actually forgotten all the folks the film wanted you to consider for the twist.
Scott Eastwood is able to shine a little bit, as a menacing wild card member of the criminal crew and, likewise, it’s good to see Burn Notice’s Jeffrey Donovan get brought in for a significant role. They’re part of Wrath of Man’s effective narrative shift and a huge reason why the film is able to rise out of the revenge saga rabble of the first act. When the movie lays all its cards on the table, it becomes a much more watchable affair. Keeping secrets and trying to dole out a mystery? It falters. This is a movie that didn’t need twists, just characters, and unfortunately, it opted for the former.