Mean Statham leads ‘Wrath of Man’


Wrath of Man (Warner Bros., Blu-ray or DVD, R, 119 min.). Director/screenplay writer Guy Ritchie is once again in top form as he takes us to the mean streets where gangsters operate, only this time the scene is set in Los Angeles instead of London (see his “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” even “Snatch”). “Wrath of Man” is a revenge movie that pulls no violent punches and Jason Statham, appearing in his fourth Ritchie film (“Lock, Stock” and “Revolver” among them), is perfect as the emotionless, take-no-prisoners executioner of that revenge in the noir-tinged thriller.

The film has a unique opening as it starts with the holdup of a cash truck, filmed entirely from within the truck. As the robbery commences, we hear gunfire on two separate occasions, with someone shouting that he has killed the two guards and he has shot a civilian. Later, in one of the film’s many flashbacks, we see the scene repeated, only this time our viewpoint is from outside of the cash truck.

“Cash Truck” (originally “Le Convoyeur”) is the 2004 French film, written by Eric Besnard and director Nicolas Boukhrief, that Ritchie and co-writers Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies have adapted, keeping the basic outline of the plot. The cash trucks here are owned by the private security firm Fortico Armed Security, which transfers millions of dollars daily for stores, malls and the like.

The story resumes several weeks after the robbery, with Statham playing new Fortico hire Patrick Hill, who gets nicknamed “H” by company trainer Bullet (Holt McCallany of “Fight Club,” TV’s “Mindhunter”). Hill is assigned to partner with driver “Boy Sweat” Dave (Josh Hartnett of “The Faculty,” “Black Hawk Down”), who wants nothing to do with H. Bullet is also on the crew and on H’s second job, the cash truck is attacked and Bullet is used as a human shield. It is no problem for H, though, who wipes out all six attackers with precision, military-like skill. By now, the viewer knows that H had deliberately downplayed his skills while doing the training tests. The screenplay teases exactly what his role may be, especially as it is fairly widely acknowledged, even among the police, that there must be an inside man at Fortico.

As we learn more about Hill, the movie shifts the audience’s perception, which, frankly, is delightful. We learn that everything Hill does has a purpose, even to deliberately baiting a co-worker during a game of pool.

During another robbery three months later, the attackers see Hill’s face and literally run away, leading to more questions for both the audience and Hill’s co-workers. At this point, the film jumps back five months and replays the initial robbery, only this time from outside the cash truck, and we see how Hill was involved. The film plays out in violent, satisfactory fashion from then on. The violence includes some torture and a gang of ex-combat-veteran thieves, led by Jackson (Jeffrey Donovan of TV’s “Burn Notice,” “Fargo”) and including the trigger-happy, smirky Jan (Scott Eastwood of “The Fate of the Furious,” “Pacific Rim: Uprising”), plus Carlos (Laz Alonso) and Sam (Raul Castillo). For a brief while, when the film shifts to Jackson’s gang, it seems like a different movie, but soon everything is tied together … with a lot of pain.

Unfortunately, there are no bonus features. Grade: film 4 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Pickup on South Street (1953, Criterion Collection, Blu-ray, NR, 80 min.). Director/screenwriter Sam Fuller created a film with no heroes, only people full of self-interest, and just a sprinkle of anti-Communism in the entertaining “Pickup on South Street,” a tale about a pickpocket who unknowingly steals information on a new chemical formula that is being sold to Communists. At one point, the pickpocket, or cannon as they are known in cop slang, barks at the police, “Don’t wave the Flag at me.”

The original story by Dwight Taylor centered on a female lawyer and basically was a courtroom drama. Instead, Fuller centers the story on a pickpocket, played snarkily deliciously by Richard Widmark, who played a psycho in “Kiss of Death” (1947) who propels a wheelchair-bound old lady down a flight of steps. Widmark also appeared in Fuller’s “Hell or High Water” (1954).

The wonderful opening sequence takes places in a crowded subway car. As pickpocket Skip McCoy (Widmark) looks around for a mark, he gets closer and closer to his eventual victim (Jean Peters of “Three Coins in the Fountain” as Candy). However, we also see that Candy is being watched by two mysterious men. We soon learn that one of them is FBI agent Zara (Willis B. Bouchey of “The Big Heat”), who sees McCoy lift something from Candy’s purse.

That something happens to be stolen government film that Candy is taking from her boyfriend Joey (Richard Kiley of “The Thorn Birds” as a real nasty type) to his Communist contact. Zara had been trailing Candy so he could nab the Communist. When Zara realizes the pickpocket has taken the film, he has to turn to police Capt. Dan Tiger (Murvyn Vye of “Road to Bali”) for help in identifying and tracking down the thief.

Tiger turns to one of his regular stool-pigeons, Moe, who also sells neckties. Moe is played wonderfully by Thelma Ritter, who received an Oscar nomination for her performance. Moe lives by a code that she was brought up to help the police as any citizen should, and the money she earns is all going toward her funeral plot and headstone costs, as she wants a proper burial.

McCoy, who has been arrested three times by Capt. Tiger and only recently got out of prison, lives in a bait shack on the East River. His refrigeration is a box for his beer bottles that he keeps down in the river. When he learns what the film is, McCoy decides to demand $25,000 from the Communist, so he is not even a proper antihero. However, he does become emotionally involved with Candy, bringing out the triple meaning of “pickup” in the title – pickup as in the theft, as in the police questioning him and as gaining a romantic partner.

The bonus features include an informative new video piece by film critic Imogen Sara Smith, author of “In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City,” on how Fuller liked characters that live outside of society, but have their own code of ethics (35:48). There also is a 1989 interview with Fuller on the film and his working at 20th Century Fox (19:06; he points out how FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover disliked the film and demanded changes); Fuller going over the beginning of the film for a 1982 French TV program (11:05); the June 21, 1954 Hollywood Radio Theater presentation with Ritter, Terry Moore as Candy and Stephen McNally as McCoy (52:20; audio only); and a collection of trailers for 15 Fuller films (39:34). The booklet contains essays by author-critic Luc Sante and filmmaker Martin Scorsese, and a chapter from Fuller’s posthumously-published 2002 autobiography, “A Third Face: My Tale of Writing, Fighting and Filmmaking.” Fuller was a newspaper crime reporter earlier in his life, so he had a lot of familiarity with pickpockets and how the police treated them. Grade: film 3.75 stars; extras 3.5 stars

Held (Magnet, Blu-ray or DVD, NR, 93 min.). The story concerns a couple – Jill Awbry, also the screenwriter, as Emma Barrett and Bart Johnson as Henry Barrett – who try to salvage their marriage by renting a luxurious, but remote home for the weekend However, once there, they are trapped inside the house, which has electronic shutters and door locks, by a mysterious Voice (performed by co-director Travis Cluff). The Voice, who knows intimate details about their lives and even has home movie footage, has drugged them and implanted devices behind the ear that enable him to cause them severe pain.

It seems initially that the Voice just wants to improve their marriage through such mundane things as Henry opening doors for Emma and Emma cooking dinner. However, some revelations result in much darker activities and Emma, whose viewpoint the film more presents, is desperate to seek a way out.

The overall premise is weird and the first half is very slow – who cares that much about their relationship, one thinks – but then there is a so-cool reveal and a much better second half.

Bonus features include an audio commentary…


Read More:Mean Statham leads ‘Wrath of Man’

Products You May Like