Either of the big names attached to this film would probably have been enough to get me into the theater for this. When you put the two of them together, it was impossible for me to resist. Guy Ritchie and Jason Statham collaborated two years ago on an action film released when people were still hiding from the pandemic, “Wrath of Man“. Also present in that film was Josh Harnett, twenty years ago “the next big thing” but still around doing yeoman service in a variety of projects. He is much better used in this movie than “Wrath”, but that does not mean that this is a better movie.
Director Ritchie has a distinctive stle, that when he lets it fly, elevates the action films he makes to art. That is not the case with this movie, it is product. The non sequential story telling that marks his best films, is mostly missing here. There are a couple of flashbacks but they only offer exposition, they don’t drive the story or create surprises at all. The colorful characters that make movies like “The Gentlemen”, “lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” or “Snatch” so enjoyable, are missing. The lead character played by Statham is the usual badass, but other than his hard guy stare, there is nothing. A hint of some of his eccentricities is offered early on, and then none of them show up or get used to provide any entertainment. The villain, played by Hugh Grant, at least is a little interesting. Grant seems slightly miscast as a cold blooded killer, but completely right with the quirk that the script has given him. If only that were the main character, this could have been a lot more fun.
The two members of Statham’s crew are Aubrey Plaza and Bugzy Malone, who are given tropes to play but not really characters. Harnett as a dim witted Hollywood action star is better. He gets to lampoon the stuff going on in the story with his character’s plot line. There was fun to be had when he and Grant play off of one another, but otherwise the humor in this movie is very weak, which is strange because Ritchie’s films are often hysterical. The secondary villain has no character development at all which makes things less interesting in the climax.
There are plenty of action beats but they rarely have any suspense to them. In most spy/heist/adventure films, there is a complication which comes up and requires some improvisation on the part of our protagonists. Those complications are never anything that can’t be resolved by an action moment, and that is one of the reasons that the film feels so mechanical. We are just moving from one moment to the next, and all of the killing at the climax has very little suspense to i. This is not so much a John Wick one on one as it is a less polished series of deaths when Wick kills 60 enemies in three minutes.
I did not dislike the film, but it is clear that it was not something the director felt passionately about. The actors are moved through their moments without much effort to make their characters more engaging. The action is standard for the most part, and there is not the usual humor (with maybe a couple of exceptions) that you get in a Guy Ritchie film. If you are not in a very demanding mood, you can enjoy this and then forget about it.