Review: ‘Wanted’

Beautiful violence… with purpose.

Six weeks ago, Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) was just another office worker making nothing per hour and generally letting life have its way with him… until Fox (Angelina Jolie) walked into his life, guns blazing. It turns out that Wesley has a destiny and a talent, both for assassination. Under the tutelage of Fox, her boss Sloan (Morgan Freeman), and a host of other assassins, “The Fraternity” trains Wesley in their art, but he’ll have to learn on his own that the who, why, and where of his newfound trade matters far less than his own personal convictions to truly achieve his full potential.

The inspiration of The Matrix is felt throughout Wanted, not in the form of “bullet time” but in the sheer poetry of motion and mayhem. With a story that is simultaneously fascinating yet absurd, neither the camera’s eye nor the director’s seem aware of the fact as they capture a world of gun play and mysticism that screams, “Be careful what you wish for.” Cautionary tale references aside, Wanted exudes danger and desire, from the forbidden beauty of Angelina Jolie to a plot with more twists than M. Night Shyamalan’s entire career (and that’s not an exaggeration).

From the visual Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch, Day Watch, and the upcoming Twilight Watch), this Top Cow comic book-inspired tale is rife with the trappings of a great story executed by someone who thinks in pictures. To achieve the best effect, the plot plays a bit with linear time, from the revelation that this began six weeks ago to watching a scene in reverse because the outcome is the first thing you need to know. Again, this movie is about implausible things accomplished by unlikely people, but like experiencing anything else for the first time, seeing is believing, and everything here is bloody fun to watch.

The cast is wonderful, from the stern presence of Morgan Freeman to the playful confidence of Angelina Jolie (who reportedly cut many of her own scripted lines to better emote her performance rather than bury it with words). The transformation of James McAvoy from dreaded “office boy” to empowered guild assassin is the real meat and potatoes of the movie, taking the audience from the mundane to the day-dreaming fantastic and back again. Let’s consider this McAvoy’s atonement for that dreadful period piece he and Keira Knightley participated in subjecting audiences to last year and rejoice that someone out there still knows how to make an original and entertaining action film that won’t be forgotten five minutes after exiting the theater.

(a four skull recommendation out of four)

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