Rated: R Reviewed by: Jim Release date: June 26, 2008 Released by: Universal Studios, Inc.
This new crowd-pleasing adventure from Russia's Timur Bekmambetov, creator of the Night Watch series, has a thrilling visceral kick even if it isn't really as cutting-edge as The Matrix.
Not that the filmmakers need to be energized by the concept of being wasted out in normalcy, they work quite well from an explosive graphic novel series by Mark Millar.
Wanted has 25-year-old preppy Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) googling himself to no slight instant gratification.
The Chicago accounting "manager" suddenly gets "awakened" when a sultry, lissome woman who'll introduce herself later as Fox (Angelina Jolie) saves him during a gunfight in a shopping market.
The slick narrative from three scribes has Wesley brought to the enigmatic Sloan (Morgan Freeman). Overseeing a textile mill, he toplines the Fraternity, a secret society (1000 years old) which terminates those who make the world more sordid. When Wesley is informed that his estranged father (recently killed on a rooftop) was part of this elite killing sect, he rigorously has to learn how to be the perfect weapon since this speciality is apparently genetic.
Bekmambetov invigorates the genre a bit that appeals more to adult audiences, especially as Wesley reluctantly learns the abilities he has, more than shooting the wings off of flies. For some it might feel a bit overproduced from some swift editing and lensing, as much credit should be given to the effects and stunt personnel.
Yet, there is a flair that lets the background of Wesley's drone existence and initiation into the Fraternity take intriguing flight. Wanted does wallow in its hyper-realism as cars defy gravity, bullets are curved, as assassins are able to vary their pulse rates. Without disclosing the big turning point, it does flash one back to the original Star Wars series.
McAvoy, who seems poised to be a Hollywood leading man after roles in Last King of Scotland and Atonement does much with the ordinary, reluctant underachiever chewed out by his boss and cheated on by his co-worker. The metamorphosis goes way beyond personal fantasy.
The cool sheen around him extends to Jolie's ubiquitous heavy eye-lined vixen (way better here than in Gone in 60 Seconds) and Freeman as the urbane, suavely inscrutable mentor. Terence Stamp (Get Smart) shows up as a bullet manufacturer, and Common, Marc Warren, and Dato Bakhtadze have their moments as Wesley's talented tutors. And, there is just enough of Thomas Kretschmann (The Pianist) as the elusive expert named Cross.
Since the set up of Wesley and his mission with the Fraternity actually seems viable, the nimble direction takes one on a rough and tumble ride with super-assassins. Some of the wild set pieces include a wicked car chase, detonating rats, and a train derailment as one is easily immersed into the "Loom of Fate". Looking into Fox's eyes when she says, "kill one, maybe save a thousand" has more than dangerous allure to it.
From the dense soundtrack to the espoused philosophies, Wanted may have more in common with The Matrix in its fallacious manner than it may care to admit. Yet, if it stumbles a bit near the close in its geekiness, there is a striking visual shockwave throughout that connects to one's destiny.