Directed by Timur Bekmambetov. Starring James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Terence Stamp, Thomas Kretschmann, Common, Kristen Hager. (2008, R, 110 min.)
REVIEWED By Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., June 27, 2008
If Maxim magazine ever decides to branch out into filmmaking, Wanted is just the kind of ear-throttling nonsense it’s bound to produce. Based on Mark Millar’s ultraviolent comic-book miniseries of the same name, Wanted isn’t so much a movie as it is a testosterone-fueled parade of fast cars, big guns, heavy metal guitars, exposed cleavage, and tests of masculinity. Plot? Characters? Meaning? Who cares about those trifles when you’ve got Jolie easing herself languidly out of a bathtub after an evening spent killing perfect strangers with a gun that comes with a video camera attachment allowing her to see around corners? Definitely not director Bekmambetov, who slobbers over this weapon like a 12-year-old eyeing his first Penthouse magazine … more, in fact, than he slobbers over Miss Jolie. Wanted’s hero, Wesley (McAvoy), doesn’t need such toys, however; he can make bullets bend in midflight just by sheer force of will, no digital recording device required. Apparently he’s the son of the world’s greatest assassin and possessed of the ability, under high-adrenaline circumstances, to slow down the world until it looks remarkably like a low-budget version of The Matrix, complete with CGI-enhanced shots of bullets flying through the air and a warping effect that makes the screen pulse like concentric ripples on a pond, which is funny, because, until recently, Wesley could have sworn he was just an ordinary anxiety-ridden nebbish cowering namelessly in a dead-end cubicle job. (The one and only clever moment in Wanted comes when Wesley Googles himself at the office and not a single match comes up. How’s that for a 21st century existential crisis?) Instead, he’s snatched up by the mysterious Fox (Jolie) and taken to a man named Sloan (Freeman, channeling Lawrence Fishburne’s Morpheus), who informs our reluctant hero that it’s his destiny to join a group of assassins called the Fraternity (perfect!), who are descended from a group of rebel medieval weavers and to whom the names of targets are relayed though the fabrics produced by a magical loom that communicates the wishes of the Fates. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Why, exactly, would weavers become assassins? And why is Wesley capable of throwing curveballs with bullets? And what the hell is Freeman doing in this movie? The answer to these questions is simple: There is no answer … and it’s a fool who looks for one, especially when there’s so much sadistic fun to be had watching cars flip and people’s heads explode in slow motion, so salacious and voyeuristic as to be almost pornographic. With every bit of sliced flesh and every punctured skull, I found myself wondering who exactly this movie is for. Its unflinching violence has earned it an R rating, meaning its desired demographic – teenage boys – is out of contention. That raises the question: Are there really adults who want to sit through this kind of mindless, bullying mayhem? Maybe I don’t want to know the answer to that one.