Home > Reviews > WRATH OF MAN – Chris Benstead

WRATH OF MAN – Chris Benstead

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Wrath of Man is a complicated action revenge thriller directed by Guy Ritchie, and is an English-language remake of the 2004 French film Le Convoyeur. The film stars Jason Statham as ‘H,’ the mysterious new employee of a security company which moves money all around Los Angeles in armored cars. The monosyllabic Englishman proves to be excellent at his job, and is instrumental in foiling an armed heist of the truck he is driving with his partner, Bullet (Holt McCallany). However, it slowly emerges that there is more to ‘H’ than meets the eye, and a labyrinthine plot emerges involving organized crime, a group of disgruntled former US marines, and the death of ‘H’s son. The film co-stars Scott Eastwood, Jeffrey Donovan, and Josh Hartnett, among others, and is an enjoyable festival of violence, filled with guns blazing, cars crashing, and Jason Statham doing Jason Statham things – although there was an undercurrent of misogyny and homophobia in the testosterone-overloaded screenplay that I found a little unpalatable.

The score for Wrath of Man is by the Yorkshire-born composer and cellist Chris Benstead. This is the second score Benstead has written for Guy Ritchie, after The Gentlemen in 2019, but despite being a multi-instrumentalist and graduate of the music program at the University of Surrey, Benstead is still probably best known as a sound mixer and music editor, having won an Oscar for his work on Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity in 2013, and worked on films as varied as Black Swan, Thor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Brave, Wonder Woman, and many more. Wrath of Man is only his second score as lead composer, but it’s clear that he has the necessary chops, because parts of the score are really very good indeed. Unfortunately, from time to time, the score does tend to descend into long sequences of rumbling noise, processed electronics, and string ostinatos, most of which tends to drag the score down. Despite this, the positives are still worth highlighting and appreciating.

The main theme appears in the first cue, “Coffee Frother,” and is a darkly melancholic dirge for cellos and double basses, surrounded by clattering percussion, whining electronic effects, and scraping metallic and industrial enhancements. The theme is everywhere – it gets major statements in the title theme “Wrath of Man,” and later in cues such as “Dark Fucking Spirit,” the harsh and guttural “Porn Factory,” and “120 Million,” among others – and it’s an interesting exercise in how to write for very low instruments. I don’t recall many movies which have their main thematic ideas carried by bowed basses, especially ones at that deep a register, and it gives the whole score an interesting timbre from start to finish.

Benstead often enhances the theme with a darkly noble countermelody for brass, pizzicato violins, and Holst-esque timpani rhythms, which give the whole thing an epic feel, and this is especially prominent in the aforementioned title theme “Wrath of Man”. Occasionally I found myself reminded of Ennio Morricone’s dark thriller music, or of his more serious and dangerous-sounding western scores, and it’s to Benstead’s credit that he made his score this stylish; I half-wondered whether the presence of Clint Eastwood’s son Scott in the cast led him down this path, but that might be a stretch.

Everything else, where this main theme is not as prominent… well, it takes some patience. Cues like “Dangerous Job,” “Tooling Up,” and “Idolised You” are little more than a series of low-key string rumbles with vague stylistic similarities to the main theme, deconstructed down to a 5-note motif, and repeated endlessly. Other cues, like “Bullet Taken Hostage,” “Fucking Lunatic,” “Know the Route,” and “Staples Center,” mostly contain theme-free mood music, rhythmic string pulses, electronic tones, and little percussion patterns with only occasional allusions to the 5-note motif, and have a tendency to get bogged down in rather aimless rumbling. In fact far too much of the middle of the album seems to be given over to this style, and as much as it works in the context of the film, it hinders the album experience.

There are one or two more intense action cues that contain some challenging dissonance, notably “China Town,” “Dougie,” “Precious Ornaments,” “Go to Work,” and especially the rasping and overwhelming “Number 1 Loses It”. Some of these cues also appear to contain an intentional ‘roaring’ effect in the cellos that seems to accompany Scott Eastwood’s character Jan. Somewhat disappointingly, this appears to be the only real recurring idea of any kind beyond the main theme for ‘H’ – there is no recognizable motif for any of his colleagues at the security company, no recognizable motif for any of the other military vets, and no motif for the father-son relationship between ‘H’ and Dougie, not even in the cue that bears his name. Having something like this might have been beneficial in terms of having some sort of subliminal differentiator between the film’s three groups of tough-looking men, as the screenplay sometimes makes it hard to figure out who is doing what to whom, but that’s clearly not what Guy Ritchie was looking for.

The finale of the score begins with the dangerous reveal of “The Inside Man,” and for almost all of the subsequent 25 minutes or so Benstead is in high octane action mode, underscoring the bullet-ridden über-violence of the final sequence comprising the assault on the armored car depot, and ‘H’s final act of revenge. “Wannabe Hero” has some quite funky rhythmic ideas running through it, as well as some fearsome brass clusters during its middle third. “Come Out Little Piggy” is a cacophony of brutal percussion and throbbing, groaning strings. “Bullet Executions” and “The Victor” are the most exciting of this series of cues; the high strings have an elegance to them, and juxtapose well against the intensity of the percussion hits and the relentless heartbeat of the basses. In addition, there are powerfully intense statements of the 5-note theme and Jan’s growl motif, surrounded by banks of menacing dissonance. The conclusive “Liver Lungs Spleen Heart” offers a dramatic, almost cathartic final statement of the main theme as ‘H’ finally sees his wrath come to fruition.

There’s some fascinating stuff going on within the darkest depths of Wrath of Man, some very clever interplay between cellos and basses, some interesting percussive writing, and Chris Benstead creates an overall mood of darkness and barely-contained fury that works very well in film context. Unfortunately, I fear that many people will become rather bored with the thematic repetitiveness, and the long sequences of dour suspense and thriller music that makes up the bulk of the score. At almost 80 minutes, the album is 20-30 minutes too long for my personal taste, and I feel that a more concise and better-curated album experience would have resulted in a score which doesn’t overstay its welcome the way it currently does. Nevertheless, with that one caveat in mind, Wrath of Man still has plenty of positives going for it, and it earmarks Chris Benstead as a composer worth watching.

Buy the Wrath of Man soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Coffee Frother (3:30)
  • Wrath of Man (2:15)
  • Dangerous Job (2:18)
  • Tooling Up (3:10)
  • Bullet Taken Hostage (3:05)
  • Fucking Lunatic (1:58)
  • Coroners Report (1:23)
  • China Town (0:56)
  • Dark Fucking Spirit (3:59)
  • Know the Route (1:46)
  • Dougie (3:21)
  • Idolised You (3:41)
  • Built for Combat (2:04)
  • Porn Factory (3:35)
  • Precious Ornaments (3:25)
  • Staples Center (2:39)
  • Go to Work (1:45)
  • Number 1 Loses It (3:59)
  • 120 Million (2:05)
  • The Inside Man (4:43)
  • Wannabe Hero (5:37)
  • Come Out Little Piggy (4:17)
  • Bullet Executions (3:32)
  • The Victor (4:49)
  • Liver Lungs Spleen Heart (4:14)

Running Time: 77 minutes 55 seconds

Sony Music (2021)

Music composed by Chris Benstead. Conducted by Tom Kilworth. Orchestrations by Tom Kilworth. Recorded and mixed by Fiona Cruickshank. Edited by Clare Batterton and Robin Morrison. Album produced by Chris Benstead.

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