Statham-Ritchie film ‘Wrath of Man’ kicks of summer-movie season

Jason Statham in Wrath of Man / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

It may not be a Marvel movie or a Star Wars sequel, but the release of “Wrath of Man” signals the summer-movie season has begun.

Summer-movie season? You remember. It’s that time of year when Hollywood comes out to play with splashy adventures and high-strung comedies to take our minds off the heat.

I know it still feels more like March than May outside, but slowly more and more big movies will be making their way back into cinemas on a weekly basis after Covid-19 wiped out the summer-movie season of 2020.

However with the vaccines in play and with our masks still in place, movie exhibitors and fans alike are tenuously looking forward to the return of movie-going as an outside-of-the-house activity.

While I’m not necessarily predicting “Wrath of Man” will be a blockbuster at the box office, it is a dark but interesting action flick that is worthy enough to prompt some movie fans to venture back into theaters to see.

Director Guy Ritchie veers away from some of his comical slickness to deliver a less frenzied but ultimately powerful product for his fourth outing with star Jason Statham. The film is action-packed but a more somber thriller than one would usually expect from the duo.

Statham plays Patrick “H” Hill, a loner type hired to drive a truck that moves hundreds of millions of dollars around Los Angeles each week. During a job, H’s truck is held up a gunpoint, but he single-handily whips the hold-up team, showing off his advanced combat skills.

The mystery of just who H is unravels slowly throughout the film which shows us two rival gangs of truck hijackers and the security guards who they prey upon. The film builds up to a clash between these rivals on Black Friday when a ton of cash will be moved around thanks the biggest shopping day of the year.

Statham is stone-faced in the film unlike is his quippy demeanor in the Fast 5 sequels and “Hobbs and Shaw.” His character is more in the vein of a latter-day Charles Bronson than his usual witty persona.

The film really is a throwback to the harder-edged action movies of the 1970s, which I didn’t know I wanted but enjoyed under Ritchie’s deft direction and Statham’s more measured performance.

There’s a foreboding menace to this film that I’m not sure I’ve experienced in previous Ritchie films because of his usual light touch, and Statham comes off more like Clint Eastwood than more cartoonish action performers like Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger of the 1980s.

That said the film has a conventionality that Ritchie’s projects often have avoided or at least submerged in the past, but it is clever how he shows us the same heist three times from different vantage points to set up a thrilling finale.

The film is impeccably shot by Alan Stewart whose work here might remind you of the the heist scene in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” and even some of the jobs in the Michael Mann classic “Heat.”

While the movie wasn’t really what I expected from Statham and Ritchie project, I think that is why I enjoyed it so much. “The Wrath of Man” is an exciting, even thrilling way to kick off the summer-movie season that Covid-19 cheated us out of last year.

(R) 1 hr. 59 min.

New in Local Theaters

Wrath of Man (watch trailer) / (R) 1 hr. 59 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Rogers Towne, Skylight

Fatima (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 1 hr. 53 min. / AMC Fiesta Square

Silo (watch trailer) / (NR) 1 hr. 16 min. / Malco Razorback

Here Today (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 1 hr. 57 min. /

112 Drive In (Friday and Saturday)

Mamma Mia (8:30 p.m.) (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 1 hr. 49 min.

Footloose (10:45 p.m.) (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 1 hr. 50 min.

Classic Corner – Westside Story

Like many events over the past year, Turner Classic Movies annual film festival has opted to go the virtual route instead of having an in-person Hollywood event this weekend because of Covid-19.

That’s bad news for those that wanted to make the trip to the left coast for the event, but the situation does open the doors of the festival to a wider audience with it playing out on TCM and HBO Max this weekend.

The cable channel and the streamer are showing a celebrated selection of films along with pre-recorded interviews and specials concerning several of the movies selected to play on TCM this weekend and ones that are available on the TCM menu on HBO Max.

O.K., so “the event” really is more of a P.R. stunt than anything else, but if you enjoy classic movies, some great ones will be playing this weekend on TCM and are available perpetually on HBO Max. Add in the pre-recorded interviews, specials and documentaries, and this “event” should be fun for classic movie fans of all stripes.

The festival actually started Thursday night with a showing of “West Side Story.” Preceding the movie, TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz hosted a prerecorded Zoom interview with stars Rita Moreno, Russ Tamblyn, and George Chakiris that was entertaining and informative.

In the interview, Moreno was pointedly tough on the performance of Natalie Wood in the movie and the choice of casting a caucasian actress to play the lead role of a Puerto Rican young woman in the 1961 musical, that is being remade by Steven Spielberg. The remake is scheduled to be in theaters in December.

While fans of Wood might have taken offense, it must have felt awesome for Moreno to say publicly what she has no doubt felt in her heart for 60 years.

The cast reunion/interview as well as the movie is available on HBO Max at least through the weekend along with a bevy of other classic films under the TCM Film Festival banner that also feature exclusive cast interviews and mini-documentaries for films like “The Maltese Falcon,” “All the President’s Men,” “The Best Years of Our Lives,” “The Thin Man,” “Bullitt,” “Top Hat,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest,” and many others.

» See the full lineup of films showing on TCM this weekend as part of the festival

Plan 9 from Outer Space

Fans of bad movies should note that the Ed Wood stinker “Plan 9 from Outer Space” plays on TCM at 8:30 p.m. Friday.

However, the fun actually begins at 7 p.m. with “SF Sketchfest Presents: Plan 9 From Outer Space Table Read.” Comedian Dana Gould adapted the screenplay for the show the features the talents of Bobcat Goldthwait, Bod Odenkirk, Maria Bamford and other funny people performing the script from the film that is recognized by many as the worst movie ever committed to celluloid.