One ought be well warned, as previously mentioned, that Wanted has barely anything to do with Mark Millar's fantastic comic book miniseries. While the series -- and a couple of characters -- share the same name, lets just say the comic was about supervillains, while the movie features a self-proclaimed gang of avenging assassins. And that the comic made sense, plotwise. Having said that, the movie can bend bullets.
Timur Bekmambetov, after the visually mindfreaking Russian films Night Watch and Day Watch, makes his English language debut with Wanted, a film so utterly bursting at the seams with adrenaline that you'll forget to chew your popcorn.
The action is constant, the set-pieces marvellously both elaborate and coherent, and while all of this is decidedly, ridiculously surreal -- the ride Timur takes you on is only too real. Buckle up.
For a film that makes the Bourne trilogy look like it was shot in slow-mo, Wanted features the unlikeliest of loser protagonists.
James McAvoy plays Wesley Gibson, doormat. You know the drill -- dead-end job, cheating girlfriend, defeatist attitude, whiney voice, no ups all downdowndowns -- and it's laid on with a decidedly Fight Club flavour. With peculiar symmetry, where that modern classic had Brad Pitt coming in to change a lame life, this one features his hotter half. And that, in itself, is a masterstroke.
Long crowned the sexiest woman alive by any magazine going through poll motions with the mere aim of her on the cover, Angelina Jolie defines hotness. You think you knew that already? Please. Wanted features the lady in an avatar so jawdroppingly sexy, you'll forget all about orphans and stick pins into homemade Brad dolls. Not just is her Fox a marked improvement from the one in the comics -- where she looked way more like Halle Berry -- but she superbly balances out her ultraviolence with attitude, making her intimidatingly irresistible.
Sure, she could give driving lessons to James Bond -- if he asked very nicely -- yet her charm lies largely in the way she smirks indulgently at a petulant, bleeding Wes. She rules, and we better get used to it. Yes'm.
A madcap actioner, the first half doesn't give you any time to breathe, sticking pretty closely to the skin of the comic book, with one of the finest scenes -- requiring Wesley to shoot the wings off a bunch of houseflies -- replicated verbatim, plus a few wickedly witty asides, like an ATM machine that spells out just how much of a loser our hero is. So yeah, it's all good and as rocking as its soundtrack, featuring both Danny Elfman and the Nine Inch Nails.
It is post-intermission that the threads literally begin to come undone. Diverging greatly from the source material, we are force-fed some insubstantial malarkey about fated looms and binary code: apparently the Fraternity is a fellowship of pissed-off tailors who find the names of their targets in the looms they weave themselves. Wha...? Alright, we always knew they charged a killing to cut a decent jacket, but this ridiculously farcical premise lets the film down -- and you know it's sheer nonsense when even Morgan Freeman can't sell you the idea.
McAvoy grows into his role well, and while his gunsmanship is neato, the office-boy is even more impressive when using his keyboard. There are a few refreshingly unfamiliar faces, and the performances are all solid. Heck, even the usually omniscient Morgan Freeman looks like he's having a blast.
Wanted ends up as a hyper-real actioner, in the vein of -- but well surpassing -- the enjoyably foolish Shoot 'Em Up. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it hurts to see the squandered potential. All they had to do was follow the source material and -- even if they didn't go as dark -- stick to the bally concept of the Fraternity, and Wanted could well have become this generation's Matrix. Right now, it's a wild ride, but the Loom-and-Luke third act (you'll see what I mean) really lets the film down. (Even though the start of that shot -- from below a hanging train -- is just plain spectacular.)
Still, hats off.
We haven't seen big-screen energy like this in ages. This is the only live-action film so far this year that absolutely demands a theatrical watch, and I say this aware of both the fantastic Dark Knight and Iron Man films.
A profane Freeman, a scrappy McAvoy and a Russian director having fun making things go boom. We're sold already -- but Wanted throws in a sashaying, super-focussed Jolie, hotter than Satan's knickers.
Get in line.