Wrath Of Man reunites filmmaker Guy Ritchie and star Jason Statham once again, though there’s no question this script is thematically darker and far less blackly comic than any of their previous collaborations. Together, their early films redefined the action movie genre. Now, for the first time in more than 15 years, they team up for an explosive revenge thriller.
With their gleefully fast-paced, anarchic 1990s hits Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, groundbreaking filmmaker Guy Ritchie and imminently watchable star Jason Statham took cinema by storm. Those acclaimed films established Ritchie as a relentlessly inventive director with a singular approach and announced Statham as a charismatic leading man who could easily command the screen while cracking skulls and cracking wise. Although the duo continued to work together over the years, after 2005’s Revolver, their busy big-screen careers diverged—until now.
“I’ve always been very keen on Jason Statham as an actor—in fact, I was the first person to use Jason Statham as an actor in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. I always thought that he should be a movie star, and I’m very happy to see he has become one. He’s been on his journey, I’ve been on mine. But it felt like we should reunite, and I thought this would be the perfect story for Jason and me to be reunited on. It’s not funny, this film. It’s serious. It’s very aggressive. We deal with the themes of vengeance, family, the sins of the father being visited onto the son.”
As it happens, the star needed little in the way of convincing.
“It was as simple as calling him up and giving him a two-minute pitch on what that film was,” Ritchie says.
“Neither of us overthought it. We liked the premise. We were both available at that moment in time. Many films are really about the convenience of finding two people that want to make the same movie at the same time. I feel as though this film really does what it says on the tin—which is Jason Statham in As it happens, the star needed little in the way of convincing. “It was as simple as calling him up and giving him a two-minute pitch on what that film was,” Ritchie says. “Neither of us overthought it. We liked the premise. We were both available at that moment in time. Many films are really about the convenience of finding two people that want to make the same movie at the same time. I feel as though this film really does what it says on the tin—which is Jason Statham in an intelligent genre movie about revenge.”
After a deadly ambush on one of its armored cars, Los Angeles-based Fortico Securities hires a mysterious new employee, Patrick Hill (Statham), who becomes known simply as “H.” As he learns the ropes from partner Bullet (Holt McCallany), H initially appears to be a quiet, keep-your-head down type simply there to do a job and earn a living. But when he and Bullet become the targets of an attempted robbery, H’s formidable skills are revealed. Not only is he an expert marksman who’s equally adept at hand-to-hand combat, but H is also fearless, ruthless and lethal. In truth, H is an undercover crime boss desperately searching for a way to avenge the murder of his beloved son. His quest takes an expected turn when a cadre of ex-military men, led by the clever, calculating Jackson (Jeffrey Donovan), plots a once-in-a-lifetime heist that will bring them a windfall of millions. What they fail to realize is that the high-stakes job will also set them on a violent collision course with the wrathful H.
Statham sparked to the drama of the story, the mystery surrounding his character and the way the narrative slowly reveals H’s true motivations.
“It gets very dramatic because of the stakes at hand,” says Statham. “H is forced to play people a certain way to figure out who they really are, but in the end, someone is going to pay a price.”
Given the intense nature of the subject matter, Ritchie and Statham agreed that the violence meted out on screen should be gritty and visceral. The approach was something of a departure for the filmmaker but one that ultimately served the story.
“Guy wanted to keep this very real and not have me do cool and slick movements,” explains Statham. “His way of achieving that is with an on-the-day type of organic approach, where you get into the space and figure out what the character is going to do in the specific situation he is in as the tension builds… I believe it helps create the sense of realism we are after. It’s very hard for a director to provide that nowadays, unless you are so confident that you know exactly what you want to capture through the lenses of the camera; but Guy does.”
The rapport that Ritchie and Statham had established in their earliest days of working together served them well, as they shared the same perspectives on both the character of H and the film itself.
Despite having not worked together for well over a decade, they easily fell back into a productive creative rhythm. “We have both come a long way since we started working together over 20 years ago,” Statham says.
“What you really want to do in a situation like this is see if anything has changed, but the truth is that it hasn’t. I fell in love with this profession thanks to a lottery ticket that Guy handed me called Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.”
“We wanted to make something that was credible and plausible as we could make it,” Ritchie says. “For example, the stunts in this film are not well-rehearsed. We wanted to keep it visceral and realistic in terms of how the action unfolded and how people really fight and not turn it into a balletic, over-choreographed fantasy of how people fight.”
Before principal photography got underway, Ritchie assembled the entire cast for a live run-through of the entire film—a method he’s dubbed the “Black Box.”
Rather than gather around a table and read through the script, Ritchie prefers a more kinetic approach to getting a sense of how the production will take shape. With only limited sets and props, the actors literally perform the entire film in front of the cameras in the span of about eight hours, creating a kind of rough draft of every scene.
“What we try to do is create a roadmap that is not too definitive,” Ritchie says. “I try with the actors on the day to improve the dialogue or the plot as much as we can. In my experience, that usually improves by about 15%. It makes it more challenging on the actor because the actor has to start to learn those new lines quickly. It keeps them on their toes, and it can be unnerving.”
That ear for language is something that distinguishes Ritchie from so many of his contemporaries. Although the filmmaker has worked in numerous genres over the years, making films from low-budget indies to blockbuster studio fare, one of the throughlines that connects all his projects is the witty banter among his characters.
Ritchie’s penchant for listening to the dialogue even as he’s evaluating the performances continues once cameras are rolling.
Indeed, his films constantly evolve before the camera. Anything the filmmaker can do to improve the way the characters look, the way they move, the way they speak, the environment around them—even the story itself—he will do. But that approach demands that the cast and crew remain flexible and have both the confidence and the agility to adapt to any new demands they might face.
As for working with Statham himself, Ritchie says his on-set dynamic with the actor has remained unchanged—their partnership is one based on true camaraderie and friendship developed over the decades. In fact, they’re already at work on their next project together, a spy project for Miramax that will include some of the Wrath Of Man actors.
“Jason and I have had the same relationship for the 22 years we’ve known each other,” Ritchie says. “Don’t think Jason and I have been angry with one another. I don’t think we’ve ever said a cross word to one another. He’s one of my best mates. There’s a lot Jason’s managed to juggle in his life very skillfully and with great wisdom. I really respect him as an actor and as a human being.”
Adds Statham: “If all I did for the rest of my career is work for Guy Ritchie, I would be a very happy man.”
Based on the French film Le convoyeur, Wrath Of Man, The film is directed by Guy Ritchie from a screenplay by Ivan Atkinson, Marn Davies and Guy Ritchie.
Statham and Ritchie have just wrapped on their most recent collaboration the spy thriller Five Eyes. Ritchie is then set to write and direct Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare for Paramount Pictures.