James McAvoy points a gun in Wanted.
by Gary Sundt
Before Wanted, I cannot recall a film more like a heavy metal song. Here is a flick that is loud, angry, hates its audience and informs them of its distaste. Funny thing is, the audience for Wanted is a lot like a heavy metal crowd, cheering the entire time while the movie basically says “$#&% you!” with every frame. Does that sound like a good time? As long as you are old enough to know that everything in this exercise in testosterone is absolutely and completely impossible, you bet your curving bullet it does.
Did I say curving bullet? I did. Why? Because, as the trailers make perfectly clear, Wanted is about a bunch of assassins that can curve the bullets they shoot. This makes executing a hit particularly nifty, because they, much like the movie, can do whatever they want. The script by Michael Brandt, Derek Haas and Chris Morgan wants to follow this insanity like the camera follows the curving bullets, letting their story run to infinite and beyond as long as it gets to the target.
The plot? Well, it gets pretty hairy with twists that often don’t make a lick of sense, but I’ll start you off. Wesley (James McAvoy) is a pencil-pushing accountant who hates his life. The guy is so restless that his heart goes into overdrive whenever he is remotely taunted by his rather irritating boss Janice (Lorna Scott). His girlfriend Cathy (Kristen Hager) is cheating on him with his buddy and coworker Barry (Chris Pratt). And his dad left him and his momma when he was a week old. All in all, Wesley feels as if he could’ve been dealt a better hand.
The chance for a full house seems to come along in the guise of Fox (Angelina Jolie), who shows up just in the nick of time to save Wesley from a curved bullet to the cranium. After one of the many brilliantly-executed action sequences, we are informed by the smooth-talking Sloan (Morgan Freeman) that he was rescued in order to kill the attempting assassin, Cross (Thomas Kretschmann). You see, they are all part of a fraternity of assassins, aptly calling themselves “The Fraternity,” and they get orders from a giant loom as to who the next target will be. These people are chosen because…
Oh, forget it. None of this matters. What matters is Jolie is a sexy chick, McAvoy is remarkable in this against-type role and Freeman uses that majestic voice of his with the added benefit of swear words. And the action sequences are simply outstanding. Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (whose name I admittedly copy-pasted here because it is pretty intimidating) knows how to make action movies, and his freshman entry into American action cinema has the tenacity of The Matrix with a little bit of Tyler Durden DNA mixed in.
On the related subject, while comparisons to The Matrix cannot be ignored, Wanted is a different sort of beast. Sure, it has the wacky badass-powers-in-a-world-without-rules feel, but it also has a hint of consequence to the whole affair. How do the characters in Wanted feel about these consequences? Remember the whole “%$#@ you” remark that started this review? That’s how they feel about it.
The choice for moviegoers this weekend came down to WALL-E or Wanted, and I can’t think of a better weekend for these two films to come out. They are essentially the antithesis of one another. WALL-E is sweet and beautiful, while Wanted is sweaty and bloody. Which is the movie for you? That is a good question. If you are interested in a steroidal Matrix with a heavy dose of Fight Club on the side, then Wanted is for you. If not, go see the cute robot. If you want a good movie, go see both.
I am coming to the end of my review, but I wish to offer an analogy that I think best sums up the Wanted experience. Here is an adjusted conversation from my favorite scene from the great 2004 film Closer:
WANTED: You like this movie?
AUDIENCE: I love it!
WANTED: You like me &*%$ing in your face?
WANTED: What does it taste like?
AUDIENCE: It tastes like The Matrix but sweeter!
WANTED: That’s the spirit. Thank you. Thank you for your honesty. Now %$#& off and die, you $#%@ed up people.
Our response to this, mirroring another famous piece of dialogue from Closer, is quite simply, “Thank you.”
NOTE: Wanted is based on a comic book by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones. I didn’t find much room in the review to write that, but I felt it was noteworthy.
Running time: 110 minutes. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov. Produced by Marc E. Platt, Jim Lemley,Jason Netter and Iain Smith. Screenplay by Michael Brandt, Derek Haas and Chris Morgan. Based on the comic book by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones. Starring James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Thomas Kretschmann, Lorna Scott, Kristen Hager and Chris Pratt. A Universal Pictures release. Rated R.