Wanted
Director: Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch, Day Watch)
Writer: Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, Chris Morgan
Comic book: Mark Millar, J.G. Jones
Producers: Jim Lemley, Jason Netter, Marc E. Platt, Iain Smith
Starring: James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Terence Stamp, Thomas Kretschmann
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: ?? min
read my spoiler disclaimer



reviewed by Andrew James
      Last year Timur Bekmambetov surprised the hell out of me by entering my top ten list of the year with his sequel to Night Watch, entitled Day Watch. It's so refreshing to walk out of a theater in the heat of the summer blockbuster season having just seen a CGI-rich, comic book-esque film and think about how great it was and how hard it is to resist the impulse to yell from the top of the highest building that "this is the SFX blockbuster movie you should be paying to see this summer!" As it turns out, Day Watch was no fluke for director Bekmambetov. I'm thrilled to climb to the top of this cyber-building and scream out, "this is the SFX blockbuster movie you should be paying to see this summer!"

      As part of his dreary, daily life existence, Wesley Gibson wakes up to a nagging girlfriend, an empty bank account and a work life very reminiscent of Peter Gibbons in Office Space. Until one day a mysterious sexy vixen named Fox let's him in on the secret that he's actually the target of a super-assassin and that Wesley too has the potential to become a super-super-assassin and join an elite "fraternity" - like his father. Reluctantly Wesley decides to take Fox up on her offer and through a series of action packed sequences learns their extraordinary (or super-natural for lack of a better term) ways of combat at a secret facility in the middle of somewhere, led by Sloan (Morgan Freeman). To go further would be coming close to spoiler territory. But the fact that there even is a spoiler territory in a "summer blockbuster" movie is a good, nay extraordinary, thing.

      The extraordinary abilities mentioned above must be touched on. Realize first of all that not only is this an action picture, but also a bit on the fantastical. Bullets can turn in midair or actually be "thrown" about; completely defying any known physics. This physical barrier-breaking refers to pretty much everything in the movie: cars flipping safely in mid air for traffic evasion, people can jump unrealistic distances and a few other fun surprises. Obviously this requires a certain amount of belief suspension that some people won't get or care for. But the rules are set up right away and like the Watch series of films, you learn to just go with it and even enjoy it... in fact, enjoy the hell out of it, because it's a load of fun.

      While normally I complain about movies that take too long in their set up, the set-up for Wanted is actually some of its most thrilling and interesting aspects. Checking my watch, I noticed that nearly an hour had passed and Wesley was still only in training mode and the meat of the plot had barely even been glanced at yet. But that's okay. Not only is the training interesting and even nail-biting at times, it becomes fairly important to the plot and we're introduced in a deeper way to the many assassins that are a part of the fraternity. We learn a bit more about each one and their importance, rather than them being portrayed as just a bunch of thugs with guns. We also delve a bit deeper into Wesley's psyche and learn more about the fraternity and what drives them.

      Like The Last King of Scotland and Atonement, it's McAvoy who shows the most talent. While Whitaker was the Oscar winner for Last King, McAvoy was truly the unsung hero. Standing next to big shots Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman (and a couple other "surprises"), McAvoy not only holds his own, but show true acting chops and outshines them all. Besides the actiony stunts and usual dramatic moments, McAvoy's comedic timing throughout was balanced and focussed and kept the audience thoroughly entertained with his Simon Peg-like antics. Yes it's true that this young lad will most certainly be a highly sought after, A-list actor in the very near future (if he's not already).

      So yes, there's a fair bit of well timed comedy here. The movie is not played for yucks or farce, but there are just enough chuckle worthy moments to keep the audience engaged and to keep the film a little lighter than one might expect. The office keyboard scene alone is worth the price of admission.

      Which brings me to style. No CGI action movies today can compare with the unique style of Timur Bekmambetov. The Wachowskis patented it for their Matrix movies, but soon their gimmick became a tired toy and they were never able to expand it or unleash more of its potential. While you certainly see quite a bit of their influence with Wanted, Bekmambetov makes these effects ideas his own with interesting twists and using them in great locales. He takes what might be a fairly generic chase scene through a bunch of train cars and constantly introduces a new set of circumstances to up the energetic ante and keep the stakes that much more complicated. And oh yeah, it looks great too.

      As I mentioned in the opening paragraph: "refreshing." It's a great feeling to come out of what would probably be, coming from any other director, a pretty stale actioner and instead look back at a perfect blend of style, substance, comedy, acting and action. Not hokey in the slightest, but a deeper storyline than one might imagine; with possibilities and plenty of food for thought (but not an over abundance that admittedly convoluted his first Night Watch movie). It's got a different look that doesn't overindulge with CGI garbage and maybe most importantly makes everything else look fantastic. Pile on the polar opposite of stiff acting (what the summer CGI movies are usually bogged down by and easily prone to) and Wanted is what you get - a film that I am very happy (and relieved) to find will very likely be entering the year end top ten list.
     


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Links:
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Official Site
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andrew@moviepatron.com