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Jason Statham, left, stars as H and Josh Hartnett as Boy Sweat Dave in director Guy Ritchie's Wrath of Man.Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures

  • Wrath of Man
  • Directed by Guy Ritchie
  • Written by Guy Ritchie, Marn Davies and Ivan Atkinson
  • Starring Jason Statham, Holt McCllanny and Jeffrey Donovan
  • Classification R; 118 minutes

Critic’s Pick

Three minutes into Wrath of Man, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary Guy Ritchie film. Yes, it’s another tale of bad men doing very bad things to one another. Yes, its dialogue tends to choke on itself, like when those very bad dudes attempt to justify their very bad behaviour as a rejection of our devolution from, according to the script, “paleolithic man to synthetic house-husband.” And yes, the film stars Ritchie regular Jason Statham, reteaming with the director for the fourth time (although it’s been a stretch since the pair’s most recent collaboration, 2005′s forgotten-to-time Revolver).

But Wrath of Man isn’t some blokes-and-bullets retread like last year’s The Gentlemen, which attempted (half-successfully) to recapture Ritchie’s Snatch heyday. This is a determinedly dark, enjoyably grim endeavour that revels in the ugliness of underground characters who Ritchie typically employs for black comedy.

Think of Christian Gudegast’s delightfully scuzzy Den of Thieves crossed with the epic L.A. grandeur of Michael Mann’s Heat, peppered just a touch of the nihilism found in S. Craig Zahler’s Dragged Across Concrete and you’re mostly there. Wrath of Man is still, like all of Ritchie’s films, massively ridiculous. But it is also brutal and dirty – a cold splash of gasoline on the face of any poor lowlife who thinks that Ritchie is just havin’ a laugh (or resigned to making Aladdin films for the rest of his life).

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From left: Holt McCallany as Bullet, Statham, Hartnett, and Rocci Williams as Hollow Bob in Wrath of Man.Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures

Opening with a three-and-a-half-minute single-take shot of an armored car heist, complete with unexpected casualties and a propulsive Hans Zimmer-y score, Ritchie’s film announces itself as something, if not wildly original, then at least impressively ambitious. Soon after that robbery, which will be revisited several times from different perspectives, we’re introduced to H (Statham), a strong-and-silent type who is applying for a gig with a Brink’s-like operation in Los Angeles. After H’s truck is ambushed, Ritchie’s story swerves into corners both expected (H isn’t who he says he is) and surprising (there’s a mid-film pivot to an entirely new set of characters that complicates sympathies and character-actor salaries).

If all this sounds a degree or two off the usual Ritchie playbook, that’s because it is: Wrath of Man is not, strictly speaking, an original Guy Ritchie joint but rather a remake of director Nicolas Boukhrief’s 2004 French thriller Cash Truck, which starred Jean Dujardin. I have no idea if Boukhrief’s original film was as go-for-broke violent and intense as Ritchie’s – more bodies pile up here than in Statham’s collected filmography, Crank films excluded – but whatever fire Cash Truck may have delivered, Wrath of Man offers an inferno. Ritchie deserves congratulations, too, for either deliberately trying to top the ammunition spent in Heat’s legendary firefight, or for simply being ignorant of his poor sound mixer’s hearing.

Combining all this street-level action with an impressive roster of supporting performers (I smiled when Mindhunter’s Holt McCallany popped up, grinned stupidly when Andy Garcia entered the fray and lost my dang mind when Rob Delaney pulled in), Ritchie pulls together an impressively determined thriller that sticks. Ideal for both a certain generation of viewer who gets excited when hearing the line, “We’ve got eight weeks of recon” and for those who will watch absolutely anything starring Statham (hi!), Wrath of Man is the best, bloodiest surprise of the year so far.

Wrath of Man is now available on-demand, including Apple TV/iTunes, Cineplex Store, and Google Play.

In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a Critic’s Pick designation across all coverage.

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