Wrath of Man (2021) – Review

About halfway through Wrath of Man, I had a thought that struck me as rich. I wasn’t digging the movie, but according to the audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, that was on me. A ninety percent is a big deal. Or, it would be if I trusted audience scores at all. Long story short: there’s a reason I scoff at sites like Cinescore. But for this one moment, I suspended the belief that there are fundamental issues with the way general audiences grade movies. I told myself that maybe movies like these weren’t for me. I almost burst out laughing at that one. Just a few days ago, I was watching The Raid 2 and I loved it. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Nobody and have somewhat of a soft spot for John Wick. Then I went back to watching Wrath of Man. Popcorn doesn’t taste so sweet when the movie that accompanies it has all the flavor of cardboard.

I’m not an action junkie. I prefer stories to be more personal, have more weight and consequence than a bunch of goons getting their heads kicked in. I guess if there’s one way to describe my taste in entertainment, I prefer bittersweet endings. That being said, I am totally fine with a whole can of ass kicking. It’s fun to turn my brain off sometimes. If there’s one thing that I got out of Wrath of Man, it’s that dumb fun experiences need to be constructed as dumb fun experiences first and foremost.

Maybe Wrath of Man isn’t meant to be viewed as mindless blockbuster entertainment. Sure Jason Statham shoots five people in the trailer, but it might have more on its mind. I will contend that the movie made me think about something other than how bland it was on a handful of occasions. Without getting into spoiler teritory, the movie changes perspectives a couple of times. Surprisingly, for a movie that topbills an action star, it’s not just about the action star. For five minutes, I was curious about where things might be going. Then those five minutes were up and I couldn’t keep the facade going on any longer. The themes in Wrath of Man are as cookie cutter as they get–barebones without having anything interesting to say. The change in perspective not only serves to showcase how ideologically dry the movie feels, but also highlights one of the biggest issues it has. I did not care for a single character on screen. If I had to sum up Wrath of Man, it makes the lead actor from Crank boring. As an actor, Jason Statham can be fantastic. He has a lot of charm and wit to him that makes every character he plays noteworthy in some way or another. The only noteworthy thing about Statham’s character in Wrath of Man is how emotionless he is. The act that sets off his quest of revenge is the only time where he seems to feel something. Knowing how carelessly he executes his adversaries, I’d say it feels contrived. The rest of the cast don’t do much better. His wife is in the film for all of two minutes before being swept under the rug, none of his co-workers have lively personalities. The biggest offender is the villains. Given the right circumstances, I wouldn’t be describing them like that. There’s a great amount of potential for them to be an understandable band of anti-heroes that our hero has to square off against. The problem? Nothing pushes their motivations. The plot is pushed into motion because one person has a conversation with a few people about how fed up he is. The conversation that he has is indistinguishable from the one I’m sure many Americans who are below the one percent have on a daily basis. Nothing profound is said or brought up, and nothing pushes the character to say what he does. Without proper motivation, it feels impossible to root for or against the villains. Without proper motivation, it feels impossible to root for the hero.

What you’re left are a couple of impressive, but all-too-brief, action scenes that sometimes connect with the overall plot. In case you’re wondering, the scene with Post Malone could have easily been cut. It serves as trailer footage, likely something that was created out of necessity and test audiences rather than the genuine need to have it there. There’s another scene like this during the second act that almost feels like it’s not filler. But the ideas established in that scene are thrown away so quickly that it’s easy to forget about it. Aside from the action scenes, the structure in Wrath of Man is perhaps more interesting than the actual story itself. It’s a disjointed sequence of non-linear segments that slowly make sense as the movie progresses. This comes with a nice benefit, but it also creates far too many issues than it’s worth. The best thing to be said about the structure is that it makes the first-viewing experience feel like you’re slowly solving a puzzle. The second act is quite enjoyable because of this. The problems? Act one and act three. To have a solid foundation for non-linear storytelling, you have to: one, let your viewers in on the secret and two, consistently surprise them. Because I had no prior knowledge of the film’s structure and the sign posting was a little bent out of shape, act one dragged on. After I had knowledge of the film’s structure, it was then dropped in act three. I’m not asking for the entire thing to be one convoluted mess, but if you’re going to try atypical storytelling, you need to stick with it. Act three has other issues than it being unfitting for the structure the rest of the movie finds itself in. It has the most suspense, the most action, a resolution that, thank god, doesn’t bait for a sequel. Without characters to care about, both the action and the resolution fall just as flat as their set up does. I felt empty when the credits started rolling. Thankful that I no longer had to be watching the movie, thankless because it could have been better.

So, about that ninety percent. I don’t get it. I hate being overly negative, I’m certain that it makes me look bad. I don’t care if it makes me look bad to say that I genuinely did not have a good time with Wrath of Man. That’s just the honest to god truth and I couldn’t put it any better. For as many issues as I had with The Gentlemen, it was atleast a solid six point five out of a ten, a better-than-average C+. This? More like Wrath of Meh.

I’ll say that ten times so you can get your ten dollars every time somebody says that.

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