MOVIE REVIEW ★★ 1/2 Career Change With a Bang

‘Wanted’ Provides a Pulpy Summer Blockbuster With Exploding Rats

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Wesley (played by James McAvoy) hunts down his would-be killers in Wanted.
Courtesy of Universal Pictures


Directed by Timur Bekmambetov

Written by Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, and Chris Morgan

Starring James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, and Angelina Jolie

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Much like a music video by Shakira, Wanted is living, breathing proof that entertainment and quality are often wholly uncorrelated phenomena. At approximately three parts Mortal Kombat fatality and one part Maxim cover, you would be hard pressed to find a more perfect summer blockbuster.

Wanted tells the tale of accountant Wesley Gibson (played by James McAvoy), as he is abruptly plucked from his dull existence as a faceless corporate nobody and thrust into the life of a highly trained killer. As the son of a famed assassin, Wesley is recruited by Sloan (Morgan Freeman) and Fox (Angelina Jolie), members of an elite organization of hitmen, to kill a rogue assassin with connections to his father. Upon induction into this “fraternity of assassins,” McAvoy’s character is bound, beaten, and repeatedly stabbed by a trash-talking butcher, which — oddly enough — is pretty much identical to joining a fraternity in the South minus forced intercourse with animals. The film follows McAvoy through several assassinations, car chases, and a full-out castle assault, providing an extremely entertaining two hours.

The gun fighting scenes of Wanted are absolutely stellar. While several of his previous films featured the less-than-serious topics of vampires and Playboy models turned gladiators, director Timur Bekmambetov demonstrates a keen sense for both drama and brutality and delivers some of the most intense action scenes this side of an episode of “Maury.” Above and beyond the film’s trademark twisting bullets, Wanted features excellent slow-motion shots that exquisitely capture everything from 20-mile sniper shots to a beatdown via ergonomic keyboard. Everything is over the top, from the trails of gore flying out of every bullet-wound, to each time a car flips in slow-motion. Based on the number of times I think about flipping cars during a normal work day, I can only assume that Wanted is designed as a massive series of fantasies for anybody who’s ever held a desk job.

But it is really the cast of Wanted, all of whom are predictably excellent, who save the film from being just another summertime movie with guns. McAvoy captures the perfect blend of nihilist corporate nobody and vengeful killer: just intense enough to be taken seriously, and just pitiful enough to be entertaining (unlike, say, Carrot Top). It’s also an excellent touch that McAvoy is a native Scot, for as Braveheart proved categorically, it’s always best to entrust the Scottish with any and all tasks involving dismemberment. Additionally, some of the film’s greatest moments come from ever-placid Morgan Freeman’s atypically profane one-liners, culminating in an exhortation to “Shoot this motherfucker right now!” Unfortunately, while these lines are no doubt included to add to Wanted’s already sizeable level of badassery, whenever I hear Morgan Freeman speaking with authority I still subconsciously assume that he is talking to or about penguins.

And, of course, there is Angelina Jolie. Even ignoring the fact that she’s so beautiful that looking at her approximates blowtorching your corneas, Jolie is actually a fairly effective action star and can almost be taken seriously holding an assault rifle. Moreover, the same mile-wide crazy streak that compels her to collect children like they’re baseball cards and make out with her brother (if tabloids are to be believed) lends an excellent sense of maniacal instability to her character. And let’s face it, if you were Angelina Jolie’s brother, you’d make out with her too. In fact, my one complaint about Wanted would be that it fails to deliver the full-out anatomical treatment of Jolie that the trailers appeared to imply.

The best part about Wanted is that it knows it sucks and drowns the suckage in a constant stream of bullets and explosions. The plot of the movie may be more convoluted than a montage of M. Night Shyamalan movie endings, but with a constant supply of bullets, bombs, and exploding rats, I can’t imagine what else you’d ever need.