More than any other Ritchie movie you feel the presence of Evil in this one, capital-E, mythological or biblical sense, rotting the soul and killing innocence, not “the bad guy does bad things while laughing” . It’s not a horror movie, but it’s an adjacent horror movie. There’s even a point-of-view photo of a man in riot gear killing, his labored breathing amplified by plexiglass and rubber. You could show “Wrath of Man” as part of a double feature film with Ritchie’s “Revolver”. In one, Statham plays a morally compromised character whose endangered soul could still be saved. In the other, he plays a man who has passed that point so far that the affront that sets off his rampage plays less as an inexplicable catastrophe than as a karmic reward for the toxic energy he has pumped into the world.
Composer Christopher Benstead supports the prowlers and shot-making of the film with a seven-note, minor-key theme that would be perfect for photos of Godzilla’s dorsal fins cutting through the waves. It’s a brilliant score that expresses a truth about H better than dialogue could. When Ritchie cuts through the helicopter shots of armored trucks and escape vehicles driving from point A to point B, Benstead’s pattern repeats with variations until it looks like an incantation invoking dark forces.
Ritchie’s direction suits the stripped-down and practically elementary energy of the film. As is always the case in an image of Ritchie, there are some masterful passages (by James Herbert), but it never looks busy or flashy; it’s more about the inevitability, even fate, of the forces these characters have unleashed. The final third is one of those heist show stunt adventures where the show and the heist fold together, and the movie continues to cut toy vehicles on a diorama to real vehicles on the street. .
But the most memorable scenes are shot rather simply by Ritchie’s standards, often in one take, with the camera sliding from character to character as they move through the spaces and speak. It’s fun to watch a maximalist come back like this, keeping it simple except when he needs to be a wizard who’s all over the place.
The completeness and safety of the film’s aesthetic is a joy to see, even when the footage captures human beings doing wild things. You’re not really cheering on anyone in this movie. They are criminals engaged in competitions of will. But the film is not a neutral exercise in terms of value. There is a tinge of lamentation in much of the violent action. Each character has made his bed and must lie to him. Most often it is a deathbed.
Now playing in theaters.