Release Date: June 27
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Writer: Michael Brandt, Derek Haas
Cinematographer: Mitchell Amundsen
Starring: James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Terence Stamp
Studio/Run Time: Universal Pictures, 110 mins.
If you thought this past weekend at the multiplex offered a reprieve from the steady stream of super hero movies, you've misjudged the latest arrival.
Wanted opens in the office of Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), a cubicle worker who complains via voice-over about the drudgery of his job, his cheatin' girlfriend and the dad who left him when he was seven days old. But then Angelina Jolie blusters into a convenience store where he's purchasing an energy drink and jerks him up out of that drudgery in a hail of gunfire and a mile of reckless driving. She's a member of a thousand-year-old gang called The Fraternity made up of master assassins who can curve a bullet's trajectory around any number of obstacles and flip cars strategically into the air. Amongst their other talents is standing and smirking while a former desk jockey is trained in the ways of assassins, which mostly involves his being beaten up.
The film is grungy and bloody in a bullet-through-the-forehead, knife-through-the-sternum sort of way, breaking social norms and the laws of physics like a cheap blend of Fight Club and The Matrix. Despite the foreknowledge provided by advertisements, Morgan Freeman's appearance is almost surprising because Wanted has the tone of a second-rate action thriller that wouldn't normally get the time of day from the master of dialogue delivery.
The plot locks together fairly well except for the way these characters require only a millimeter of justification for all manner of mayhem. When a mechanical loom delivers orders to assassinate various strangers, Gibson doesn't accept them blindly. Oh no, he asks for a corroborating anecdote, gets one and proceeds on his bloody way. When the plot twists, the characters don't question their lack of investigation but simply reverse course having been given a counter anecdote. If you can deliver a compelling speech that urges violent assassination, you'll have these folks eating from the palm of your hand. You can tell them a loom ordered it, you can tell them a loon ordered it. Makes no difference.
But we must also remember that half of these speeches are delivered by Freeman, who could make an FBI warning about unlawful exhibition of video tapes sound like it was written by Robert Towne. In one scene, he gets a chance to do four successive readings of "your name came up," and I imagine this is what it's like to attend a script read-through with Mr. Freeman. Each reading is different. Each one sounds like God's honest truth. When he says he gets his messages from a loom, even I believe it. Plus, the textiles churned out by that machine probably help fund The Fraternity's obvious habit for sunglasses, leather jackets and fine dining.
And wax. When these assassins-for-good get beaten to a pulp (which is a matter of routine), they end the day in a vat of special wax that heals all wounds. It knows not to remove Jolie's tattoos, thankfully, and it seems unable to remove angst about one's deadbeat dad, but it patches up all other abrasions and lacerations. If I were Gibson, I wouldn't care so much about learning to curve bullets or flip cars. I'd inquire into that supply of magic wax. For instance, must it be purchased with textiles from a Loom of Fate, or will dollars earned at a desk job suffice?