• Timur Bekmambetov
  • 2008

Silly season continues at the box office with the special effects action bonanza Wanted. A hyperactive comic book adaptation only in its stride when rival assassins are trying to literally shoot holes in each other thanks to its preoccupation with CGI, this blockbuster may have 18-rated kills but it is about as interesting as a Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers episode. James McAvoy stars as a shy loser catapulted into the high octane life of a hitman by the endlessly sultry Angelina Jolie answering to a typically authoritative Morgan Freeman. Delivering their lines without breaking out into laughter after every line is the extent of the challenges to their acting talents in this schoolboy yarn.

Wesley Gibson (McAvoy) is a Thomas “Neo” Anderson-like IT monkey. Stuck in his cubicle he has a dead-end job, an annoying boss, a girlfriend cheating on him with his uncaring best friend and severe panic attacks. But those aren’t any normal panic attacks, as we’re informed by expert assassin Fox (Jolie). No, they are actually spurts of adrenaline which he can control to provide superhuman reaction times, concentration, speed and strength. Quitting his job he joins Fox’s fraternity of assassins led by leader Sloan (Freeman) who need Wesley to kill a rouge former member Cross (Thomas Kretschmann) who killed his father — a man Wesley thought died a long time ago. It’s a typical boyish plot where a zero turns to a hero via expert training, plenty of opportunities to look cool while despatching bad guys in increasingly stylised ways and all with an extremely sexy woman for company. Yet, because of the ultra violent scenes, the key audience of teenagers Wanted seems to be aimed at will be turned away at the cinema door due to an 18-rating.

If there is some common sense to the comic book source material, it is all lost in the translation.

Why is it an 18? Well, bullets frequently explode through heads in spectacular slow motion fashion thanks to Nightwatch director Timur Bekmambetov, in charge of his first movie outside of his native Russia. He delivers an near endless stream of kinetic action resulting in dodging bullets, jumping along trains and pulling off head shots at speed with ease: it’s all very much following the vein of The Matrix. Such a shame all the effort that has gone into making the action so shiny and fun is wasted on a story with logic a five-year-old would question.

If there is some common sense to the comic book source material, it is all lost in the translation in favour of sultry shots of Jolie and a whole load of gunfire. Apparently the Fraternity was started hundreds of years ago by a group of weavers who have a mysterious loom which tells them who to assassinate — something to do with fate apparently. The lack of an explanation undermines whatever “morals” the Fraternity upholds and is made worse by McAvoy’s voiceover revealing Wesley’s inner thoughts to be of little more depth than a disgruntled schoolboy: it certainly seems like it was written by one.

Wanted delivers in the blockbuster action stakes, but McAvoy is never going to be an action star while Jolie and Freeman have played the same roles in these summer offerings for years. Director Bekmambetov does enough to warrant another chance helming a big budget Hollywood movie, next time he might want to ensure the people who will enjoy the film most can actually get in to theatres to see it.

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