At the rate that Hollywood is cranking through comic books to fill up its studios, film worthy comics may soon become as scarce as crude oil. The latest entry is “Wanted,” helmed by Russian action golden boy du juor, Timur Bekmambetov (director of the currently in progress “Night Watch” vampire trilogy). Based on yet another in a long line of anonymous action comics, “Wanted” is a hard edged, no holds barred action romp like everything we’ve seen before. Given the paltry success rate in page-to-screen comic book adaptations, Hollywood may be turning more frequently to retreading their past failures like what was just attempted with The Hulk. “Wanted” does nothing to stem that tide.
The movie introduces us to Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy, “The Last King of Scotland”), a harried and henpecked accountant whose life has hit such a level of insignificance that his name doesn’t bring up any hits on Google. Wesley’s father disappeared when he was one week old; he lives in a run down apartment right under the train tracks; his donut munching boss rides him like a three dollar show horse and his girlfriend is banging his coworker behind his back. Oh, it’s not that Wesley doesn’t know about all of this. He’s just too much of an apathetic pussy to do anything about it. Instead, he copes by blowing through his weekly prescription of anxiety meds like M&Ms.
Wesley’s life finally takes a turn (for the better or the worse is debatable) when he’s approached one evening by Fox (an inked up Angelina Jolie, looking positively skankerific) who tells him his missing father was in fact one of the best assassins in the world and was just killed the day before by the gun-toting thug standing right behind him (Thomas Kretschmann, “Immortel: ad vitam”). Sounds ridiculous, yes, but hey, if Angelina Jolie picked me up, I’d believe anything she said too. Thus begins one of many insane action sequences involving outrageous CGI-enhanced stunts, piles of dead bodies and bushels of bullets. After their initial escape, Fox brings Wesley to a run down textile factory that is the base of operations for The Fraternity of Assassins, a 1000 year old organization that has been carrying out assassinations to direct the balance of global power. One has to wonder just how good these guys really are since I can think of at least a half dozen missed opportunities over the last century alone. The Fraternity’s sage leader, Sloan (the ever dignified Morgan Freeman), informs Wesley that he has been recruited since his late father was a member and he possesses the same hyper-attuned senses that will allow him to be an ace assassin as well.
“Wanted” never pauses to think about how preposterous it is, pressing forward with such inanities as the mysterious ‘Loom of Fate’ (The Fraternity’s hits are brought forth by a giant loom that embeds the names of their targets in binary code using misplaced fibers in a never ending quilt), curving bullets that are all in the wrist (I’ve got a pretty big topspin forehand, so maybe I should give it a try) and a Dodge Viper that sounds like a Lamborghini Gallardo. The movie is a complete mess. The hyper-kinetic camera work barely stops to catch its breath, the auxiliary characters have no justification for being in the movie beyond maintaining the on-screen body count and even the central plot points that lead to Wesley’s discovery and consequent actions don’t make much sense, particularly after they are explained at the end. The plot twist isn’t anything you didn’t see coming from a mile away and even the Gunkata looked better when I saw it in “Equilibrium.” It was fairly clear from the trailers that the only reason to see this movie would be to see Angelina Jolie slithering around in tight clothes and kicking ass, but even that expectation is not met since Jolie looks downright emaciated. In combination with the overabundance of tattoos, her look is one step too far over the line between trashy and crack whore.
“Wanted” runs back over a fairly well trodden premise, put together with messy sfx and forgettable characters, but plenty of visual flair. I saw “Night Watch” a couple of years ago and came away thinking it had an interesting concept and showed plenty of visual creativity, but it was spoiled by sloppy execution. After watching “Wanted,” it doesn’t look like Bekmambetov has progressed much. “Wanted” works as a brain dead summer action flick on the same level as “Die Hard 4,” but with less ambition.
Timur Bekmambetov (director) / Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, Chris Morgan (screenplay)
CAST: James McAvoy … Wesley Gibson
Morgan Freeman … Sloan
Angelina Jolie … Fox
Terence Stamp … Pekwarsky
Thomas Kretschmann … Cross
Common … Gunsmith
David O’Hara … Mr. X