Release Date: June 27, 2008
Cast: Angelina Jolie, James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Thomas Kreschmann
By Sean Chavel
Throw out your brains because "Wanted" is the most shameless action exercise of the summer. It’s the kind of movie that uses close-ups of a bullet eviscerating the flesh of the target. This is employed by a slow-motion camera traveling along with the badass movie bullets with a torpedo nose and etched slogans on its shell. Only a league of secret assassins known as The Fraternity would know how to acquire these bullets. These are custom-made bullets. It goes without saying there’s a lot of attention in this movie paid to bullets.
For original creativity, the movie’s got one trick up its sleeve: the bullet curve. That’s when you hold the gun sideways, cock the gun while shooter’s body is in motion, and makes the bullet go ’round an obstacle so it can curve around an obtuse corner. This is used so often that its trick gets tired out early. Then there are the car stunts where the drivers deliberately flip their car up mid-air to shoot at targets from above. All of this would be material for a video game.
The hero of the movie is a scrawny corporate drone named Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy, gone commercial after the stuffy prestige of “Atonement”). His best friend is sleeping with his girlfriend, and he’s constantly hectored by his fat overbearing boss. He’s like the cubicle slaves Lester Burnham of “American Beauty” or Peter Gibbons of “Office Space,” only difference is he has untapped killer instincts and youth to exploit. One night at a drugstore Gibson unwittingly becomes the target of an assassin whom he will later come to know as Cross (Thomas Kreschmann). What kind of guardian angel do you put in this kind of movie to save Gibson’s life? Angelina Jolie, of course, and you give her a cool assassin name like Fox.
Former “Tomb Raider” action babe Angelina Jolie shoots all the big-ass guns in this movie and becomes Gibson’s mentor and trainer. Morgan Freeman, as Sloan, is the head of The Fraternity. Gibson goes through an abusive training process that requires a specialized rehabilitation bath that rejuvenates his strength and heals all wounds – these heroes practically have unlimited lives after getting pummeled to near death (since “Wanted” is based on a graphic comic book novel it allows itself such licenses). After this blood-gushing training process, Fox joins Gibson on his first assignment which is much easier than the training part. But Gibson is vexed because he’s killing targets who he knows nothing about, targets that seemingly look innocent, targets produced by binary codes attained by an elaborate textile spool. Don’t ask - it’s that kind of movie.
Cinematography of the action is hardly at all sloppy, quite the contrary. As preposterous as the bullet curve and acrobatic stunts are, the film has a kinetic continuity. Any MTV-generation viewer can tell what’s going on, this is unlike during most Michael Bay movie experiences. But for a long stretch the movie’s only tension it has going for it is whether Gibson can stop Cross, the man who is unrelentingly hunting for him. But Cross is a flat character with an uninteresting look and no character depth. Gibson versus one man isn’t all that dramatically gripping. The movie starts to grow boring until an unexpected twist picks things up considerably. The twist saves the movie from becoming a one-note plot. Thank God it’s there.
Despite its shameless stupidity and its overuse of cranked slow-mo shots, “Wanted” has a certain kind of trash entertainment value – one of its outrageous highlights is the use of rats as bomb carriers. But this movie doesn’t have the diversity or nasty verve that of last year’s “Shoot ’Em Up” with Clive Owen which had constant evolving surprises going for it. “Wanted” has a sleazy and tasteless sense of humor – B-movie yuk sometimes is a guilty pleasure – but its limited style and gimmicks grow repetitive. The final sniper shot of the movie, which requires the bullet to go through superfluous penetrations through multiple pipe-tunnels and ricochets off of many objects, is too ridiculous.