Understanding Guy Ritchie, and “Why all stories begin in Israel”

Guy Ritchie

BY DAN BUFFA, SPECIAL FOR THE JEWISH LIGHT

British director Guy Ritchie loves to adapt things. 

And, when you think of the narrative structure and connective tissue of his films, one thing sticks out: fast-talking Brits swinging fists and firing guns in the ultimate conquest of either money, justice, or revenge. “Snatch” and his “Sherlock Holmes” films come to mind instantly. But there is more to his craft. 

Ritchie also likes to adapt scripts and languages into his way of life. His latest film, “Wrath of Man,” was adapted from a French film called “Le convoyeur,” which followed a mysterious and deadly man (Jason Statham, reteaming with the filmmaker) working at a cash truck company. The self-described “prey” for robbers of the higher artillery persuasion, “H” (Statham) falls in nice and easy with his new company, even if they don’t know the half of his story. Potentially, the deadly half. 

But a slick French crime story isn’t the only Ritchie has picked up, reshuffled, and made his own. Fifteen years ago, he started the process of adopting Hebrew to his reportoit. Two years ago, Ritchie was doing press for his adaptation of “Aladdin,” and spoke in Hebrew for portions of it. According to the Jerusalem Post article, it wasn’t the first time he had surprised a film critic with a different spin on words. Back in 2017, during an interview for his “King Arthur” adaptation,” he broke out the Hebrew dialect. 

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It’s a skill he’s been working on for 15 years, an enjoyed hobby that he shares with his wife, Jacqui Ainsley. Why learn Herbrew? For him, the coin fell closer to the “why not” train of thought. According to Ritchie, when asked why he suddenly wanted to learn Hebrew, he had this to say:

“Why not? It’s Israel. All stories begin in Israel.”

All great Ritchie movies fly better with a few different ingredients working at once: 

*Jason Statham not stretching or sitting back too much. Prime rib action Statham. If there’s one guy who knows his lane and loves driving in it at the movies, it’s this modest yet merciless tough guy. When he’s allowed to use his sense of humor (see “Spy”), Statham is great. But even as a cold-blooded yet righteous knight of justice, he can find the right tone for the action hero lovers. 

*A great ensemble cast. While Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law made a great team as Holmes and Watson, they were also in great company with Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Eddie Marsan, and on. “Wrath of Man” features a similarly eclectic gang. Holt McCallany (playing a guy named Bullet!) always makes a movie better. Fans of “The Boys” will recognize Mother’s Milk himself in Laz Alonso. Ladies will stare at Josh Hartnett and literally burn 10 years off him. Scott Eastwood, who looks better than any de-aged Clint Eastwood enthusiast could possibly dream of, shows up here as well. If you dig the television series, “Raised by Wolves,” the potent Niamh Algar graces Ritchie’s film with her presence. 

*Good songs. During the trailer, a wicked cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” takes over halfway in. There’s a general rule of thumb in movie previews with me and it’s rather simple: put a Johnny Cash cover or plain-old original song inside of it, and the end result cannot be wrong. 

I’m talking about a two-minute teaser trailer, ladies and gentlemen. Give Ritchie a steady golf-clap and await the finished result before we confirm “The Gentlemen” wasn’t just an old relic suddenly reborn and put back to sleep. I didn’t like “Aladdin” but it made a lot of money, so I hope “Wrath of Man” is one for Ritchie, and not for the studio. 

The trailer tells me we are in for a treat. “Wrath of Man” opens in theaters on May 7. Fingers crossed. Statham is coming.