He goes by different names but the character Jason Statham plays in one or two action movies per year is always, essentially, Testosterone.
In "Wrath of Man," he's called simply H (for Hormone?). As usual, he's a brawny guy who has a head that looks like a bullet and who would happily slice off your fingers if you cut in front of him at the grocery store.
H starts a new job as a guard on an armored car and quickly establishes himself as the sort of cool customer who can accurately fire killshots at six robbers (including one played by rapper Post Malone) without sustaining so much as a stubbed toe. This leads to his colleagues referring to him variously as a "psychopath," "dark spirit," "maniac" and a few other terms that can't be printed here.
It leads us to wonder what his story is.
Guy Ritchie's fourth movie with Statham fills us in on the details when its overly tricky structure takes us to H's recent past. We also learn a bit about the back stories of colleagues played by Holt McCallany ("Mindhunters") and Josh Hartnett. The Minneapolis native doesn't have much of a part as a fraidy-cat truck driver oddly named Boy Sweat Dave but he already has signed up for the next Ritchie movie.
"Wrath of Man" is similar to previous Ritchie capers, "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch," in that it's extremely violent and virtually devoid of women. Fans also will find that it's much grimmer. The carnage includes innocent children and a fair amount of torture, both of which wouldn't fit with the playful, wisecrack-y mode Ritchie deployed in "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." or last year's "The Gentlemen."
"Wrath" delivers what Statham and Ritchie's bloodthirstier fans are probably looking for, but it seems unlikely to win either of them new ones. There's satisfaction in the climax, when several puzzling developments begin to make sense. And the overqualified cast engages in some amusingly unprintable banter even if the movie seems to be taunting us with missed opportunities for levity. Comedian Rob Delaney plays the entirely unfunny character of H's boss and Andy Garcia does not get to display his light touch as a crime lord who mostly whispers threateningly.
Ritchie always attracts top talent — Hugh Grant was fantastic in a change-of-pace role as a sleaze in "The Gentlemen" — but he seems unsure what to do with the people in "Wrath of Man." That starts with Statham, who has demonstrated comic skills ("Spy" and "Crank") but they remain hidden here. Come to think of it, maybe that's what the "H" stands for — Humorless.
Chris Hewitt • 612-673-4367
Wrath of Man
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rating: R for bloody violence and very strong language.
Theater: Wide release.