Saturday, June 28, 2008

WANTED: Review

I had no real intention of seeing Wanted. I wasn’t impressed by the previews or certainly the fact that the film was based on a comic by Mark Millar; but I was desperate to see something, and I didn’t really want to ask for a ticket to Kung Fu Panda without a date in tow, so Wanted’s number just came up.

Two hours later when I walked out of the movie I wasn’t certain whether I’d been hoodwinked. Was that movie awesome or just pabulum that messed with my equilibrium (and sense of taste)? Truth is it was awesome pabulum. And, while not seeking out reviews of the movie, I found them anyway in both Rolling Stone and New York magazine and both critics were also wowed.

Wanted takes elements pieced together from several films. From The Matrix--not only tracking the bullets’ flight and bending them around objects to meet their intended targets which is just a reverse twist on Matrix characters bending backwards to avoid them, but also the mundane-to-soul-crushing existence of James McAvoy‘s accountant who would be The Chosen One. From Fight Club in both the revelry in brutality and also the first person narration. And from the clunky Da Vinci Code comes a lot of gibberish about a secret cabal and the general beatific look the textile mill/lair that looks like a cathedral.

The initial narration and dialogue is clumsily heavy-handed, certainly nothing profound, and lacking entirely in Chuck Palahniuk’s pugilistic poetry so perfectly blended into Fight Club. But as the McAvoy’s character gains steam the movie grabs you by the throat and the dialogue suffices and any desire for profundity is obliterated by the furious symphony of action Director Timur Bekmambetov throws up on screen. The action requires that even the most basic laws of physics be damned, but then complaining about outrageous sequences involving flipping cars in a movie where bullets bend like a Beckham free kick is a bit silly. This is still fantasy after all, brutal, blood-spewing, side-of-beef-style fantasy. And reality will be the last thing you care about during the mindboggling sequence featuring a train and a chasm.

McAvoy is terrific in a performance reminiscent of Edward Norton in Fight Club, as he convincingly transforms from tread-upon office nerd to confident, lethal assassin. The viscerally brutal training regimen that McAvoy’s character goes through is fun to watch partly because there’s relief at the end of each session via both a healing paraffin bath and Angelina Jolie’s otherworldly beauty onscreen. For once Jolie is in an action movie that doesn’t suck (Lara Croft, Mr. & Mrs. Smith etc. etc. etc.) and she is intensely sexy while rarely wearing anything remotely revealing. Morgan Freeman is always good (often great) but he’s on cruise control here, basically playing a Morgan Freeman-type even though this role has a little more juice and surprise than the typical Freeman-as-wise-saint roles he’s played so many times before.

“Kickass“ and “badass” are terms usually applied to anything that has a requisite number of rote explosions and car crashes. As much as I hate those one-word superlatives served up by idiots incapable of a coherent thought or a complete sentence, they actually fit here. Wanted wins.

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