Wrath is a film with much potential. Shot in New South Wales, Australia, it takes full advantage of the area’s beautiful open spaces. The cinematography is lush and the special effects are well done and believable in a grisly way. All the actors are more than capable in their roles, conveying fear, frustration, duplicity, rage, and suffering. The score, alternating between low, sinister synths and haunting harmonica, conveys the struggle between the rural residents and the outsiders. Unfortunately, what Wrath lacks is the narrative cohesion to make these elements affecting.
There’s a story in Wrath, for sure, but we never find out exactly what it is. There are many movies which suffer from too much expository dialogue and leave no questions unanswered, but Wrath‘s dialogue, while enticingly ambiguous, is too much of a good (or bad) thing. Characters often speak in evocative prose that conveys their emotions without conveying much sense. There is a voice over in the beginning that is heavy on repetitive symbolism and tries unsuccessfully to set the tone.
Essentially, Wrath is about the clash between two groups of people. One includes Caroline and Matthew, a young couple, and Matthew’s friends Erik and Javier, towards whom Caroline is outwardly hostile. Caroline and Matthew have their own issues, involving relationship woes and an unplanned pregnancy. While on a trip in Callie’s native Australia, they encounter a young woman named Leah trying to escape the gun-crazy male members of her family.
In the trailer as well as on paper, this has the makings of a fantastic thriller. Yet we don’t know enough about what has happened among the first group of people for their reactions when encountering the second group to be as profound as they could be. What is Matthew going to have to “eventually” tell Caroline? What is the destination they’re heading to on their trip? Why is Erik so freaked out by the cop car? Wrath conveys the tension between everyone, but without more back-story, it’s difficult to care very much about any of the characters, no matter what horrible fates they meet.
A similar problem is found in the plotline involving Leah and her family. Who is the guy they killed? Why does Leah care about him so much? Why did her father go on a shooting rampage in the first place? More confusingly, an incredibly promising story line about a wife and mother who’s planning on leaving her abusive husband is cut short because he accidentally crosses path with Leah’s murderous father. That aborted thread is the most evocative yet sorely underused part of the movie.
There are many shots of the beauty and savagery of nature, but they do nothing to advance an already-confusing storyline. And while everyone’s reactions to the awful events that take place make perfect sense, one can sense they even they are confused as to what’s going on. Wrath has pulled together a lot of talent, but unfortunately suffers from not knowing what to do with what it has.
Wrath is being distributed through Lightning Entertainment and is awaiting a US DVD release.