Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Wanted (2008) Review

What the f**k have you watched lately?
You may not have heard of it before the movie was released, but Wanted was once a successful independently published comic book that made its debut a few years ago. Rather than being a tale of super heroes stopping crime, it was told from the perspective of a group of super villains, The Fraternity, who actually hunted the heroes in the world. Talk about turning the tables. The comic also crafted an identity of its own by showcasing over-the-top bloody violence, cinematically inspired artwork, and a darkly humorous edge that made an otherwise dark and grisly story entertaining to unravel. For the film version, the super villain/hero dynamic has been dropped and replaced with assassins that target seemingly normal people. Fear not though fans, because although the story has been altered, the spirit and tone of the comic are still very much present.

Plot Synopsis: Wesley Gibson is a pathetic nobody. He works at a dead end job with a boss that he loathes, doesn’t stick up for himself, and pretty much accepts the fact that his “best friend” Barry is screwing his annoying girlfriend. That is until one day when a mysterious woman named Fox saves him from an encounter with an assassin named Cross. Fox brings Wesley to a place run by the assassination organization called The Fraternity and its leader Sloan. According to Fox and Sloan, Cross went rogue and started killing other Fraternity members, including Wesley’s father. For his own protection, The Fraternity begins to train Wesley in the art of assassination and the techniques involved. One of these skills being curving the bullet, which allows those few who have learned it to shoot otherwise unreachable targets that are protected.


I know that the early scenes before Wesley meets Fox are very reminiscent of Fight Club, and many will label this as a rip off, but I feel that it works well in setting up the film's sarcastic sense of humor and tone early on before the really “out-there” stuff appears. By "out there" I mean cars flying through the air after catching an edge and landing on a bus only to drive off perfectly, a weaving loom that weaves the names of The Fraternity's targets (yes, you read that right), and the aforementioned curving of bullets. But the reason all of this works and that it is done with a wink and a smile, never taking itself seriously. For example, when someone gets struck by a computer keyboard, the broken keys form "F**k yo" with the guy's tooth being the "u" in "you".

Director Timur Bekmambetov, making his Hollywood debut, brings the same invigorating visual style and hard edge that marked his Russian hits Night Watch and Day Watch. Curving the bullet is by far one of the coolest uses of the special effect bullet time (if not, the coolest) since the original Matrix. Is it realistic? Hell no, but neither is the rest of the movie. It is all in good fun, as they say. Bekmambetov may pull off some pretty wild moves with the camera, but it's the editing that aids in creating the smooth flowing action sequences that rarely stop for a breather or skip a beat. One in particular, where Wesley runs down a gauntlet of people and dispatches them with ease, is one of the more energetic action scenes of the past few years. That's because everything is always constantly in motion; whenever a gun runs out of bullets, rather than reload, Wesley just kicks up the nearest dead guy's gun and continues on.


Coming off of his more romantic role in Atonement, Wanted is a much different affair for James McAvoy, who plays Wesley. His transition from a meek working drone to a highly trained killer is very believable, as you can see him slowly become more and more confident as the film goes on. The only issue I had was during the first car chase, where I just wanted to punch him because he was so annoying. But aside from this, his performance is strong. But honestly, when I saw the trailer, McAvoy might as well have been invisible when compared to Angelina Jolie as Fox. So it was to my surprise when Fox was shown more as a trusty sidekick than a second protagonist in the final film. Still, Jolie plays the part well and looks sexy as hell in the process. It was also a treat to watch Morgan Freeman, as Sloan, act in a movie that is much pulpier than his usual films. Seeing Freeman cut loose with expletives is a very rare, but satisfying, experience.

One other thing about the movie is that near the halfway point the story veers off into another direction, which may catch a lot of people off guard and/or put them off. But going back and watching the movie again, I noticed the little details and foreshadowing moments that hinted at this turn of events (Hint, I know this may sound hard to believe, but watch the timing of the gunfire very carefully) and repeat viewings improved the flow of this. For those that stick along for the ride, Wanted is a delightfully delirious action film that makes up for its lack of substance with a heaping of style and energy.


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