TL;DR – a character driven film elevated by outstanding action sequences and a solid supporting cast but let down by a script and lead actor that doesn’t deliver on the depth required to elevate the film beyond what is essentially a straight forward revenge flick.
Review (warning: spoilers)
Patrick Hill (Jason Statham) is a serious fellow who looks capable of freezing hell over by just looking at you. It is the type of role that Jason Statham excels at and does not require a wide range of emotion. He is sadly typecast, so if you have seen his previous films, you know that his character will be one-dimensional. But then again, that is probably why audiences watch him. They know what to expect like ordering a burger from McDonalds.
When Hill applies for a job at Fortico Security (an armoured truck company based in Los Angeles) and he barely passes the training and tests, such as firing a gun at a target, you have no doubt that it is all a ruse because it is Jason Statham. Why he undersells his capabilities is the question that the viewers will ask themselves, but they don’t have to wait long before Hill unleashes his wrath in merciless precision by foiling a robbery.
The strength of the film is not in its lead actor. The stoic, no-nonsense character of Patrick Hill is revealed to be a tormented soul, but Statham takes on the role like he is half bored and making any sense of emotional turmoil bland.
No, the strength of the film comes from the supporting cast and Director Guy Ritchie’s measured approach to telling the story.
The supporting cast around Hill comprises of Haiden (the excellent Holt McCallany from TV series fame Mindhunter) who is Hill’s trainer; Dave (Josh Hartnett) who shows not everyone is cut out to be a security guard; Dana (Niamh Algar), the only female guard with an understandable large chip on her shoulder; Terry (Eddie Marsan), Fortico’s head of operations; and FBI Agent King (Andy Garcia). They all bring much needed depth to the film and show the risks of the job they do (driving around in armoured trucks and picking up and delivering money) is not necessarily worth the paycheck. Note: Garcia’s FBI agent does not work at Fortico but is an important ingredient in why Hill is allowed to go berserk in Los Angeles.
But the cast does not stop there. Ritchie tells a story that also examines the antagonists and provides their back stories also. In this case, it is the robbers, a bunch of ex-military veterans unhappy with eking out a living that barely supports their families, disgruntled at having served their country and getting nothing in return, and wanting to hit paydirt by conducting various heists. This group is led by Jackson (Jeffrey Donovan) and their robberies are meticulously planned beforehand showing a level of detail that is often glossed over in other films involving theft. Jackson instils a prerogative that their heists must not involve any killing. This, of course, is impossible when one of their members, Jan (Scott Eastwood), is clearly a loose cannon.
The story is told in four parts and jumps between past and present events to reveal who the enigmatic Patrick Hill actually is and what he is seeking to achieve as his end goal. In short, he’s a powerful crime lord, whose son is killed during a heist of a Fortico truck planned by Jackson and his team. Jan (the loose cannon) is the man responsible for killing the kid. The rest is all predictable as Hill goes on revenge mode piecing together the people responsible for his son’s death by going “undercover” and working at Fortico.
The action sequences are blood pumping and Ritchie has a real eye for detail and atmosphere. But for all its strengths, it is still let down by a lead actor that doesn’t bring enough gravitas for you to care about his plight (you know he’s going to get his revenge). I often wonder if they had cast an actor with more emotional range whether this could have turned into a far more existential crisis type film rather than a straight action movie. But perhaps that was all Ritchie was after. The film is also not helped by a script that lacks a level of dialogue that allows you to invest more fully in the lead. But again, Statham is not known for espousing long diatribes or waxing lyrical the consequences of choosing a life as a crime lord.
Still there is enough in here that makes the film enjoyable and a notch above other action movies.
7.5 out of 10