Not even a pandemic can stop Marvel. Even with the delayed movie releases, Marvel seemed to be ready for any contingency. WandaVision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki have filled in the movie/television schedule that has otherwise been a giant void of nothing. Now, with things opening back up and more than half of Americans with at least one vaccine shot (the rest of you need to get on it), all of those delayed movies are starting to hit theaters and/or our homes. That means Black Widow.
(SPOILERS Ahead – Don’t worry, you can keep reading. It’s not like you don’t already know Widow lives at the end.)
Black Widow takes place after the events of Captain America: Civil War and before Avengers: Infinity War. We pick up with Natasha, a.k.a. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), on the run from Secretary Ross (William Hurt), Widow having violated the Sokovia Accords. She and Captain America are the only two outlaw Avengers still free and Ross would like to change that. First though, we have to step back with the film for a glimpse of Natasha’s childhood. The opening scene of the film takes us to mid-1990s Ohio where Natasha lives with her mother Melina (Rachel Weisz), father Alexei (David Harbour), and sister Yelena (played later as an adult by Florence Pugh). Alexei returns home from work one night and says they have to leave. It is not clear what happened, but what becomes clear is that they were a Russian sleeper cell. At the end of the scene, Yelena and Natasha are returned to Dreykov (Ray Winstone), the head of the Red Room where all of the Black Widows are trained, including Natasha. Now, back to the almost-present.
Natasha is on the run and Yelena is a Black Widow on a mission for Dreykov. While trying to capture a scientist, Yelena is sprayed in the face with some red stuff and suddenly cares about the well-being of the scientist. This was confusing for a while because the spray doesn’t get explained any time soon and we don’t know much about the Black Widows aside from them being deadly assassins who take ballet and have all of their reproductive organs removed.
While on the run, Natasha receives a package from Yelena, so Natasha heads to Budapest (yes, that Budapest) and meets up with Yelena. And by meets, I mean fights with. Family, am I right? Yelena tells Natasha that Dreykov is still alive and the Red Room is still in operation and we finally get an explanation to the fabled Budapest that Natasha and Hawkeye always talked about, albeit a very abbreviated explanation. Natasha and Yelena decide to take down Dreykov once and for all and you know what that means. Vodka. Not for the Red Room, don’t be silly. Only a full nuclear family, one filled with trained assassins, can take down a room full of, er…trained assassins.
What I enjoyed most about the movie is the relationship between Yelena and Natasha. They definitely have some past demons, but they also have a respect for each other that mixes professional with familial. And if you have siblings, you will recognize the dynamics. Yelena is the younger of the two and is constantly poking at Natasha. One of the cleverest things about MCU movies is the way they show the audience that they are aware of themselves, but without coming off like morons the way the characters in F9: The Fast Saga do. One example is Yelena teasing Natasha about her superhero landings and poses, literally calling Natasha a poser. Later, Yelena will perform one pose herself, then remark to herself that it felt gross. It’s brilliant and is the reason why I’m perfectly fine submitting to the Marvel (Disney) overlords.
The film is not without its flaws. One flaw is that the story itself seems a little looser than most MCU movies. The film kind of flies past a couple of elements and kind of forgets to use some of the setup. The most glaring example is the use of Red Guardian, a.k.a. Alexei, or more specifically, lack of use. While Natasha and Yelena are reuniting in Budapest, we find Alexei in prison, bragging about being Captain America’s superior. Turns out, Alexei was given the super serum as well and we see him put it to use in the flashback scene by flipping a car and in prison during an…is this right? An arm-wrestling sequence? Huh. The rest of the film he is nothing more than comic relief. No more flipping cars and no more, uh, arm-wrestling, I guess. Just joke after joke after squeezing into his old uniform after joke. To be fair, the jokes were pretty funny. I just wish we got more of him in general.
At this point in time, we know what we are going to get from Marvel, including the intro music that, during these Covid times, is literally and figuratively music to our ears. Back are the quips, the action, the easter eggs, the fanboy winks, the post-credits scenes, and actors loving that they are in a Marvel movie now too. Harbour, Pugh, and Weisz were clearly enjoying themselves, as was I, since I really like Harbour and Weisz, and Pugh has definitely moved up my list after this film. I can’t say that it was an amazing movie because we are living in a post Avengers: Endgame world where every movie seems smaller now. But that’s okay. We need all of these movies and shows to be smaller so that whatever is the next big MCU thing feels big enough. Personally, I’m just happy that big movies are back, even if they are a step back in the universe we are watching.
Rating: Worth exactly what you paid for it. Home or theater.
F9 is one the dumbest movies I have ever seen. It was so dumb, rather than waste brain cells and precious time thinking about this travesty, I considered just writing the word “dumb” one thousand times and calling it a review. That is what this movie deserves. But, the entire franchise is that stupid and I have somehow never managed to screen one of these movies in the past. Considering people still plunk down billions of dollars of their hard-earned money for every subsequent movie in the franchise, it felt like a cop out to write dumb, dumb, dumb, etc. So, here goes.
(SPOILER ALERT – This movie will kill some of your brain cells and it will hurt.)
Full disclosure: Of this entire insipid franchise, I have seen the first and eighth films, as well as the spinoff Hobbs and Shaw. I tried to watch the fifth one on a flight once and I lasted about five minutes before I prayed for the oxygen masks to deploy. I have missed them for a variety of reasons, one of which was probably because I was washing my hair. And don’t think it’s for film snob reasons. The entire franchise is the equivalent of Days of Our Lives slipping a roofie to Grand Theft Auto. No amount of car stunts can make up for the terrible acting, beyond-cartoonish plots, atrocious music, and cringeworthy dialogue.
I knew going in that F9 was going to be hot garbage; I was just hoping it would be entertaining from an action movie standpoint. And it was very much not entertaining. There were parts where I laughed out loud, not because something intentionally funny happened, but because something so mind-numbingly stupid was said or done that my brain had to make my body do something. As an example, in the climax, they turn a Pontiac Fiero into a space ship by doing nothing more than attaching a rocket engine to it. My friend, who has seen every movie in the franchise, kept turning to me and saying, “Okay, this one really is pretty bad.” There were even kids talking during the film and I did not care at all, whereas usually I’m plotting their murders.
Again, I went into the film just wanting to shut off my brain for two hours to watch action-packed nonsense, but F9 just wasn’t having it. I’ve seen lazy movies, but this movie took laziness to whole new levels. For much of the run time, it kept reminding the audience how dumb this movie was. Early on, Tyrese Gibson’s character (Roman) is surrounded by fourteen bad guys with machine guns, including some in an elevated position. All of them empty their magazines at him and he not only kills them all, but exits completely unscathed. He then proceeds to spend the rest of the movie trying to convince two of his friends that they might be invincible by pointing out how they should all be dead. I half expected the cast of Lost to wander on screen to point out that the Torettos and friends actually are all dead, which is why they continue to have elaborate spy missions despite starting out as DVD/VCR thieves (incidentally, the first film in the franchise has aged exceptionally badly).
Since the movie decided to indulge in discount Deadpool theater, nothing prohibited it from reining in completely ridiculous and wholly unbelievable action sequences, papered over by a plot not even Dom’s mother could love. Not only were Dom (Vin Diesel) and friends surviving things that should have turned them to jelly or human popsicles or swiss cheese, but they weren’t even getting scratched in the process. Not only were they doing things with vehicles that would make Bugs Bunny blush, the vehicles were usually still functioning despite surviving stunts so absurd they could only be accomplished with CGI. Not only were Dom and team not dying on multiple occasions, but they were even bringing dead characters back to life by talking it away by saying Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) is “really good at making people look dead.”
By now, I would normally have spent some time on the plot, but it really was just dumb on top of stupid on top of much more dumb. Something about magnets and a MacGuffin and a human MacGuffin and a green ball thing with a computer virus that is going to destroy the world unless two dipshits in a space-Fiero drive into an orbiting satellite. It’s the kind of dumb that puts Harry and Lloyd to shame. Suffice it to say, I was not entertained. F9 is the kind of movie that makes you think that maybe Covid lockdowns aren’t so bad. Just so dumb.
Rating: Seriously – just so, so dumb. Yeah, I’m talking to you if you paid to see this film.
Since I did not write a full review of A Quiet Place, just noted it as arguably the best movie of 2018 in my year-end review, it is worth spending a little time here to talk about it before getting into Part II. A lot of horror movies are cheap, barely coherent films aimed solely at getting a couple of jumps or screams out of the audience. If they do that, they win. That cheap part is key, just look at The Purge series. Each of the four movies (with a fifth coming out soon) cost between $3-$13 million to make and each pulled in around $100 million at the box office despite the movies featuring almost no actors you have ever heard of and writing that, at best, can be described as words on paper.
(SPOILERS for the first film. If you haven’t seen it yet, go now, and be quick about it.)
A Quiet Place differed in three key aspects. The first is that it featured two well-known actors, Emily Blunt and John Krasinski. The second is that it was a well-written screenplay with an exceptional attention to detail (one of the writers was Krasinski, who also directed). The third is that it had a larger budget, though still inexpensive as movies go, at $17-$21 million. All three of those things as a group were crucial to the success of the film. While a larger budget for a horror flick is a great thing (they were able to hire Industrial Light & Magic for the creatures, rather than hope a couple of kids with MacBooks could do it for a couple thousand dollars and some lollipops), the key was two exceptionally good actors and that meticulously written screenplay.
The acting was notable in that the entire cast was six people, two of whom are barely in the film. Essentially, it was Krasinski and Blunt with a couple of kids (both of whom were also quite good) and a script asking them to deliver a convincing performance with virtually no spoken lines. Since the creatures in the film can hear the smallest of noises, the family has to do everything as silently as possible. This is where the amazing screenplay comes into play. In order to convince the viewer of the danger posed to the family (and all surviving people) and how they were able to survive for so long, we have to see and not hear everything they do. From their sign language, to the trails of sand they walk on in bare feet, to the sound-proofed basement, to the lights used for signaling, to the sheer terror and desperation in the actors’ eyes, face, and bodies whenever so much as a mouse farts, everything in the sets, acting, and production design conveys a singular purpose – shhhhhhh.
The entire film is done so exquisitely that the audience unconsciously becomes part of the film, not daring to make a sound lest we become the next victim or betray the family’s position. When Lee (Krasinski) hears that toy space shuttle break the silence in the opening scene, the terror in his eyes is palpable and we clench in anticipation of what he is so afraid of. While most horror flicks hope for a couple of scenes of great tension, A Quiet Place succeeded in creating an entire film of great tension. It isn’t until the film is over that you realize your fingers are two knuckles deep into the armrests.
A Quiet Place is also the kind of movie that makes you dread a sequel. For one thing, you are worried that you cannot handle that level of tension for another two solid hours. For another thing, trying to recapture the magic of a movie like this is almost always a fool’s errand. This time, the audience knows what is out there. This time, the audience knows the family has a way to fight back against the monsters. And when it comes to monster movies, sequels almost always try to double-down on the monsters. Super-hearing in the first film? How about we give them the power of flight in the second film? Also, they are twice as big. Oh, and they can breathe under water. If not this movie, then they can when this becomes a trilogy.
This is where a great talent like John Krasinski comes in handy. For the sequel, he is the sole credited writer, directs again, and is even in a prologue scene depicting the first day the creatures attack. While this first scene is a fun nod to the audience who all wanted to know where the creatures came from, the rest of the movie is shown the same amount of care and meticulousness as the first film. And if you were worried about the sequel curse, Part II isn’t a traditional sequel that happens sometime in the future, often with different characters. Once that prologue scene is over, the film cuts to where we left Evelyn (Blunt) and her kids at the end of the first film. And I do mean the exact moment we left Evelyn, standing there with a shotgun.
With Lee gone, Evelyn and her three kids (including their newborn infant) set off to find a new place to survive. They soon come across an abandoned factory and have to run for their lives when Evelyn trips a tripwire and Marcus steps in a bear trap. Quickly, daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) sets up their one defense against the creatures (a speaker and her hearing aid, which make a screeching noise). Watching this occur from within the factory is Emmett (Cillian Murphy), a friend of the family, and fellow survivor who lost his family to the creatures. Seeing them kill one of the creatures, Emmett dashes out to help them and we are treated to another harrowing scene in which the humans use a combination of luck and environment to survive the attack. And like with the entire first movie, your hands are knuckle-deep in your seat.
While recovering from the bear trap, Marcus comes across a radio station playing music on a radio in Emmett’s hideout. Regan concludes that the music is a message to survivors and decides that she is going to locate the source of the music, taking off on her own without Evelyn’s or Emmett’s knowledge. The rest of the film plays out this plot and continues on like the previous film and this film – very little spoken dialogue and an intensity that rarely dips below nine. Emmett goes after Regan and they must survive multiple encounters. Evelyn and Marcus must survive more encounters. A couple of new human characters are discovered and more encounters must be survived. And every bit of it as intense as the last film and none of it feels rote or less urgent.
Have I mentioned that this film was really good? It was really good. It is one of the few sequels that manages to be as good as its predecessor and shows that sequels don’t have to escalate from the first film to be good. It also helps that Part II got a massive boost in production funds ($61 million), kept its cast small, and featured two very good actors carrying the film. It is the perfect film to usher us back into theaters, especially since the audience unconsciously stays as quiet as possible. Because you never know what might hear you.
Rating: Do not ask for any money back and apologize for poking holes in the seats.
For years, Disney has been trying to recapture the magic of beloved classics, either by remaking them or attempting to reimagine them, and mostly failing. Alice in Wonderland, Dumbo, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Maleficent, and more. I get that people have enjoyed some of them, especially The Jungle Book, which completely ruined the ending of the story, but it’s only been successful in that they have made a ton of movies, not that people have truly loved the films. Don’t believe me? Sing the new song they added to the Beauty and the Beast remake. Nope, that’s from the original. So is that. Now you’re just embarrassing yourself.
When I learned that Cruella de Vil was getting her own live-action origin story film, my brain immediately went to Maleficent, a decidedly bad attempt at a villain origin story that tried to make someone whose name literally means evil into a misunderstood princess. Gross. The good news is Disney finally managed to get a live-action villain origin story right in Cruella.
(Mild SPOILERS ahead to talk about how Disney almost kept their losing streak alive.)
The movie definitely starts off on the wrong foot, with the same cliches as every other Disney film. Zero points if you guessed that it starts with a little girl named Estella…whose mom dies. Seriously, what is wrong with Disney? It’s supposed to be THE family-friendly company and they can’t get ten minutes into a film without killing off a parent or two. And to top it off, this initial chain of events sure stunk like Disney trying to turn another villain into a misunderstood princess. A villain whose alter ego not only means evil, but literally contains the words cruel and evil. Remember, the original Cruella wanted to murder ninety-nine puppies to make a coat. I promise – nobody wants to see Princess Estella.
And the way they kill Cruella’s mom off was a terrible scene…at first. The way the scene initially plays out is so unbelievable it almost made me turn off the film. My wife and I looked at each other like we had microwaved fish. The scene felt like Disney was so aware of its reputation for patri/matri-cide that it was trolling us. But, I am nothing if not a glutton for movie punishment, so I pressed on, fully expecting the film to devolve into a nostalgia-filled train wreck. And I am glad I did because I have never been so glad to be so wrong about a film.
The first act ends with young, now-orphaned Estella meeting a couple of London street urchins named Jasper and Horace. We jump ahead ten years thanks to a montage of their pickpockets and thefts, and the second act begins with Estella (Emma Stone) complaining that she is somewhat bored with their current lifestyle. Sensing this, Jasper gives her a birthday present – an employment acceptance letter at a high-end fashion store called Liberty that Estella has been obsessed with for years. You see, Estella fancies herself a fashion genius and just wants a chance to prove herself. All she has to do now that she has the job is prove her worth. The job is janitor, but that’s just a minor detail. After finally hitting the end of her toilet-scrubbing, floor-cleaning, garbage-dumping rope, she goes full Mannequin on a window display and the movie finally starts.
At the same time Estella’s display is discovered, in strolls the owner of Liberty, one Miranda Priestly. Whoopsie, I mean Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson). Much of the rest of the story plays out in such a way that it’s clear which movie the writers had just watched, but they do a good job of threading the needle between homage, plagiarism, and Prada.
The Baroness is what Miranda Priestly would have become if Miranda lacked a conscience. Yeah, the Baroness is that nasty. And Thompson owns the Baroness the way Meryl Streep owned Miranda. The Baroness is a delightful mix of cunning, viciousness, and heartlessness wrapped in a ball of wry humor of which only a few actors are capable. And Emma Thompson is one of them. It’s what made Hela and Loki so delightful and what Maleficent so clearly lacked. That mix of characteristics is what brings Cruella to full fruition and also what pushes Emma Stone to make Cruella just as memorable as the Baroness.
Having a great actor like Thompson around always pushes the rest of the cast to be better, but having Stone there too is like a rookie ball player filling in on an All-Star team. The two play off each other so well, each trying to out-villain the other. I particularly enjoyed the way Stone balanced what was almost two roles – Estella, who was just trying to make her mom proud, and Cruella, who was trying to burn the Baroness to the ground. With those two tossing a gem, the rest of the cast had no choice but to raise their game, so much so that Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) almost managed to steal the show. Almost.
This Jasper and Horace were much better than their original, animated predecessors. Instead of clumsy, dopey oafs, they were three-dimensional characters that provided heart to balance out the villainy. And let’s not forget the Baroness’ valet, John, played by Mark Strong. I mean, is Mark Strong ever not good? Even as a secondary character in this film, Strong commands your attention when he is on screen. He’s just so very Mark Strong.
As for the rest of the production, there is plenty to praise beyond the acting and story. The costumes and makeup were exceptionally good, at times really capturing the essence of 1970’s London. The same can be said for the music, which was as perfectly chosen as in Guardians of the Galaxy. As for the story itself, I was very surprised when the film revisited Cruella’s mom’s death scene to explain why it initially came off as so unbelievable. Just like I was surprised the film didn’t pile on a bunch of forced call-backs to 101 Dalmatians for cheap nostalgia. Not that there aren’t call-backs, but they are subtle and clever. All of which is to say, I finally walked out of a Disney live-action retread without a foul taste in my mouth. Thank you, Emma. Thank you, Emma.Rating: The first movie of the pandemic era in which I can say don’t ask for any money back, but you should still wear a mask when you go to the theater.
While we continue to wait for theaters to reopen with movies we actually want to pay for, streaming services are still pumping out plenty of content for us to chew on. Three weeks ago, Without Remorse dropped on Amazon Prime and I finally found some time to sneak it in. And I was looking forward to it. Amazon’s Jack Ryan series has been solid, and Tom Clancy movies are typically fun, twisty, intrigue-filled, action thrillers worth watching at least once. Unfortunately, Without Remorse has a disadvantage the other Clancy films lacked – no Jack Ryan. As hurdles go, Without Remorse ran face first into it.
(Very mild SPOILER ALERT – If we had to actually pay for this, I’d really be spoiling this clunker.)
The film starts out in typical soldier movie fashion with Kelly leading a team tasked with rescuing a hostage in Aleppo, Syria, as part of a joint CIA operation. Our new Tom Clancy lead is Navy SEAL Senior Chief John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan), who has all the charisma of a kitchen sink. During the mission briefing, Kelly says “Wow. That was a good talk.” CIA agent Robert Ritter (Jamie Bell) responds with “You a comedian? Is that it?” Another SEAL responds with another dud of a retort and we’ve just witnessed a bunch of actors proving why they were cast in a dead-serious action flick and not a comedy. Especially Jordan, but we’ll come back to that later.
During the mission, Kelly discovers that the soldiers holding the hostage are not Syrian, but Russian, and this is supposed to be some big revelation. It was an open secret that both the United States and Russia had troops on the ground in Syria. So, why doesn’t Ritter just tell them? It’s not like the Navy SEALS are under the impression that Russia is just there for the nightlife. Because CIA. If Ritter told them he’d have to kill them. Right, Hollywood?
Fast forward three months and our SEALS are enjoying not being on a mission. Suddenly, Russian assassins are everywhere, killing the SEALS in revenge. Kelly manages to survive several gunshot wounds, but his pregnant wife Pam (Lauren London) is gunned down in her sleep before Kelly is able to kill all but one of the assassins in his home. After recovering, Kelly’s only goal left in life is to hunt down the escaped assassin to avenge his family’s death. Unlike Wrath of Man and John Wick, this movie isn’t putting the viewer into a fantastical mob or hitman landscape that at least have inklings of creativity to keep the viewer engaged. Kelly is just a blunt instrument sent on his way by his commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith) who has the gall to be upset that Kelly goes on a murder spree and ends up having to get him out of prison. If this were a stupid 80’s action flick (and let’s be honest, it is), Greer definitely checks the box for this movie having a stupid chief.
Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Thomas Clay (Guy Pearce) wants to send Russia a message that killing American soldiers on American soil is a no-no. During Kelly’s murder spree, Kelly acquired the name of the escaped assassin and Clay greenlights a mission to track down the assassin and kill him. To recap the plot of this movie so far, it’s: hostage rescue and dead Russians, revenge, revenge, revenge. This is followed by a reveal that makes zero sense, followed by the final reveal that makes the first reveal somehow even more nonsensical (plus, the motivation explaining it is mind-numbingly banal), followed by more revenge. It wouldn’t be so bad if it at least featured amazing choreography or wasn’t dripping in wildly outdated political Cold War intrigue.
Speaking of which, I am not seeing what other people see in Jordan. I was not impressed with his performances in Creed or Black Panther (or Fahrenheit 451, for that matter) and his performance as Kelly did nothing to change my mind. Not that the script did him any favors. There is an attempt to make him seem like a thinker early in the film. Once when he discovers the Russian soldiers by looking at the cell phone of one of the dead soldiers and later when he is walking by his kids playing chess and stops to make a move for one of the kids. Oh, and since I have the power to pause this movie, I rewatched the move he made and it wasn’t even legal! He moved a bishop like it was a knight. Not only is he the asshole who butted into a game of chess (which would get said person stabbed with a pawn), but he doesn’t even know how to play chess. No wonder the idiot’s revenge plan included ramming a car in the departures area of Dulles, then setting the car on fire, all while dozens of people watched (and in real life, would have captured the video of on their phones).
Despite all that, this film might have been tolerable had Jordan shown the slightest amount of interest in his character. Jordan’s Kelly is a flat, boring character with whom you sympathize only by default, due to his dead wife. The only point in the movie where his character comes to life is when he fights off a bunch of prison guards in his cell. And don’t think I’m letting the rest of the cast off the hook. Turner-Smith somehow manages negative charisma, Pearce seems just as confused by the plot and his lines as the audience is, and Bell is clearly trying to convince us that Ritter is not trustworthy purely because CIA. Turns out London was the only winner since all she had to do was die in her sleep as pregnant Pam. And I do mean only winner because running into that hurdle hurts.
Rating: You didn’t pay for this movie and you should still ask for eight dollars back.
One of the things I enjoy the most about writing movie reviews is learning new things. For instance, did you know Guy Ritchie was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award (Razzie) for worst director? And if you were guessing for which movie, it was not for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, but some random movie called Swept Away starring his then-wife Madonna? Yeah, that Madonna. See? It’s fun learning new things. I also learned that Ritchie’s latest film, Wrath of Man, is a step down from his previous film, The Gentlemen.
(SPOILER ALERT, but if you watch the film, you’ll have it figured out well before the halfway point.)
Wrath of Man continues Ritchie’s streak of movies featuring nobody you should be rooting for. Bad guys vs. really bad guys, where the bad guys are sophisticated and well-spoken and the really bad guys stuck their noses into the business of the bad guys and also don’t dress well. Wrath of Man opens with an armored car robbery, shot from a very interesting perspective. For much of the scene, we cannot see the driver of the armored car, but we can hear him talking to his partner, who we can see, in the passenger seat. This immediately grabbed my attention, seeming to be a setup for a reveal later in the film. Who is the driver? When are we going to hear his voice again? Is he going to part…oh, there he is; nevermind. Guess he probably isn’t important. This will become the recurring theme of this film – disappointment.
The Ritchie movies I enjoy are the ones that are clever. Sherlock Holmes, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Gentlemen. I do not enjoy the ones where Ritchie thinks he is being clever, but is wrong. Wrath of Man is basically John Wick, but if the killer had a believable reason for a murder spree, not a stolen car and strange puppy. Patrick Hill (Jason Statham) is hired as a new guard at an armored truck company. A few days into the job, his partner is taken hostage and the thieves demand the money in truck. Hill goes half Wick on the thieves, killing each with a single headshot, but without all the fancy choreography. In the debriefing with the chief (Eddie Marsan), a couple of lawyers question why Hill is so awesome, and Hill mumbles some of that famous Statham cockney that requires the viewer to turn on closed-captioning. Then, we see Andy Garcia on the phone with the two lawyers, also mumbling some famous Garcia, um, cockney? Whatever it is, he’s nearly as unintelligible as Statham and I quickly forgot that those men existed.
At this point, Ritchie tries to get clever, but fails. The film jumps ahead three months to the next attempted robbery, this time foiled by Hill defying tear gas and scaring off the bandits with a look. I am not making that up – he takes the cloth off his face he was using to thwart the gas and the thieves hightail it out of there. Then, the film jumps backward five months to show us why Hill joined the armored car company, giving us a different perspective of the robbery that opened the film. Unfortunately, it further cemented the fact that the driver was not an important person with a cool back story, just the catalyst for Hill’s revenge.
Once all of the players are revealed, we still have forty-five minutes left of foregone conclusion. Namely, the completion of Hill’s revenge. You’ll be disappointed in how that conclusion plays out, straining your suspension of disbelief to the point where your eyebrow almost flies off your forehead. Even more disappointing is the lack of quick wit that usually fills out Ritchie screenplays. In its place is a bunch of stilted dialogue and cringe-worthy homophobic jokes that would have been out of place even in an 80’s action flick. One character’s name is literally Boy Sweat. I rest my case.
Wrath of Man is nowhere near Razzie level, but it is a decidedly mediocre movie. If you are looking for a heist movie with a whole lot of shooting and killing, it fits the bill. An hour later, you will have a tough time remembering all but one character’s name and who you were supposed to be rooting for. Normally, it’s the guys with the great lines, but this time it’s the guy who kills and has nothing clever to say after. A lot like Ritchie this time around.Rating: Ask for six dollars back and hope Ritchie’s next film is more Sherlock Holmes and less this.