Wanted is the kind of action movie that goes for the gusto and in the process it turns into one of this summer’s biggest surprises as it delivers relentless action with generous doses of humor and drama.
R for strong bloody violence, language, sexuality
Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy, Atonement), by his own admission, is a total loser. When he Googles his own name, the search engine comes up with no results. More problematic, though, is that he hates his life. Well, he’d hate it, that is, if he could muster enough interest to bother with hating his own existence.
Instead, he simply endures one humiliation after another and pops pills to alleviate his anxiety attacks. In his personal life, his live-in girlfriend is having an affair with his best friend. Professionally, Wesley’s not even a corporate cog; he’s the gap between the cogs that constantly gets ground down by the other cogs.
Boy, his life sucks. It sucks big time until he meets a fox named Fox (Angelina Jolie, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) at a convenience store. Then everything changes and Wesley’s life of boredom skyrockets into the stratosphere of over-the-top action.
As it turns out, Wesley’s the son of a highly skilled assassin, a member of an ages-old fraternity of assassins that now needs him to help track down a rogue member.
Be the Bullet
Wanted starts out feeling a little disoriented, as if it’s looking to find its own tone, style and pace. Wesley’s scenes in his typically drab work cubicle smack of Fight Club in its sense of an emasculated corporate life. Much like Edward Norton’s character in that flick, Wesley is grappling with a life that’s passing him by without a single lick of piqued interest or the simplest of sensations.
There’s the same sense of bitterness about superficial corporate B.S. when Wesley snipes about his title of “Account Service Representative” being changed by outside consultants who ordain that people in Wesley’s position shouldn’t “serve” the customer, they should “manage” them, hence his new title: “Account Manager.”
Those sourly witty scenes of mind-numbing, mass boredom are interlaced with outrageous scenes of action involving assassins jumping from rooftop to rooftop and bullets whizzing around objects and corners like something out of The Matrix.
In retrospect, though, the movie knows where it’s going from the first frame and that feeling of disoriented filmmaking is simply director Timur Bekmambetov’s slickly primed and pumped production waiting for the audience to catch up.
Fruit of the Loom
Based on a short series of graphic novels by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones, the screenplay was written by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, the duo behind last year’s 3:10 to Yuma, and Chris Morgan (Cellular). By the end of it all, they’ve concocted an outlandish story that passes those early Fight Club and Matrix roots and achieves a sense of freshness and excitement that is a most welcome break from the summer staples of sequels, knock-offs, and TV reincarnations.
As Wesley goes through training en route to full assassin status, he’s pitted against one brutal situation after another. Fists, knives, guns — they all go flying as Wesley’s life finally comes alive in the face of death.
This death-defying group of assassins has an odd side occupation. They’re a clan of weavers and their home base is a castle-like factory in Chicago with enormous looms chugging out spindles of cloth.
The guru of the bunch, Sloan (Morgan Freeman, Batman Begins), doles out the assassins’ missions as they are divined from an unlikely source: the loom. Yes, within those cloth threads lie deep, dark binary messages about who should be the next target.
Maybe it’s something in the summer air but, somehow, it all works.
Amid the satire, mayhem and loads of violent bloodshed, Wanted still manages to find considerable heart thanks in large part to its A-list cast.
McAvoy, in particular, is sensational as he makes the transition from corporate nerd to world-class assassin believable within the confines of the movie’s own hyperactive logic. His character runs the gamut of emotions, particularly when it comes down to the fraternity’s dealings and his father’s fate.
It certainly helps when Jolie and Freeman have your back. No one else but Freeman could deliver a line like, “The loom provides, I interpret, you deliver,” and make it resonate with credibility. Throw in Terence Stamp (Get Smart), a perennial professional, and Wanted is one bloody, nasty hoot.
Ultimately, it’s the movie’s final frames that pack the most punch. The message is loud, clear, and timely: Do something with your life and be your own hero.
For Bekmambetov (Night Watch), who was born in the small, quiet town of Atyrau, Kazakhstan, which rests right on the borders of Asia and Europe, that mission has been most definitely accomplished.