Review: Wanted

wanted_cov.jpgYear: 2008
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Starring: James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 64

Plot
A man becomes an assassin in order to avenge his father’s death.

Quick Review
Wanted is a violent, bloody action film with an attitude. The acting, script, and action shine throughout the film, but shallow characters take the emotional impact out of the story. Worth watching on the whole, but could have been so much better if they made the viewer care.

Full Review
Wanted slaps you in the face, breaks your nose, and then puts a slow-motion bullet in your skull. This is a violent, bloody film with an in-your-face edge. I guess I should have expected this tone given the film’s rating, but the dark mood, the splattering blood, and the gruesome violence of the film caught me off guard. The majority of action films today end up as feel-good thrillers; Wanted shuns that crowd, embraces its R rating, and uses it to put a unique spin on the action film genre.

Once you’ve accepted this angle, you can settle into the story of Wesley Gibson, a depressed, downtrodden cubicle worker wanted_1.jpgwhose life is transformed as he develops into a master assassin. And on the whole, Wanted is well-crafted, well-edited, and oozes quality and creativity. The story moves along quickly enough, and tosses in a few twists and turns as it rumbles to a satisfying conclusion. Having said that, I found my mind wandering during the middle of the film, where Wesley’s training seemed to drag and I was getting flashbacks to Rocky Balboa with all the scenes involving raw meat. I do have some minor difficulties and one major difficulty with the premise. The film asks the viewer to make a certain Matrix-like leap of faith with regards to human abilities and powers, and I was fine with that, but I laughed out loud at the huge loom and its role in the story. You’ll know what I mean when you get there. And if you really think about the story hard, there are some questionable actions by some of the characters. But these are relatively minor, and I could grant them some wiggle room with their story and still enjoy the tale well enough. Bottom line: premise is established and then adhered to.

Helping the film out are the above average acting and the surprisingly effective script. James McAvoy plays a convincing role. He does a wonderful job switching from the wimpy cubicle worker to the deadly assassin. Angelina Jolie puts a mysterious, sexy edge on her role as a talented assassin. Morgan Freeman, as the head of the Fraternity (the society of assassins), seemed flat in his role, and I expected more here, but he gets the job done well enough that the film doesn’t suffer.

The action in Wanted has some thrilling, creative and brilliant moments. Yes, there is a certain Matrix-derivative flair to the shootouts and fighting, but this only enhances this film’s best scenes. There are car chases, shootouts, a wild train crash,
wanted_3.jpgand an amazing one-man charge. The film uses slow-motion to clarify and enhance, and bursts to speed to rev up the intensity. Kudos all around in this regard.

The funny thing, though, is that although Wanted gets all these things right, I found myself sitting in the theater only mildly entertained. At first I just thought that it was the blood and gore that were holding me back, and I’m sure in part this played a role: I tend to prefer more escapist entertainment. But I also love some perfectly gruesome movies, so this didn’t feel like the only reason. About an hour into the film, though, I realized what I was struggling with: Wanted had failed to make me care.

Solid acting and script aside, Wesley Gibson, as the lead character, is as shallow as a puddle of blood. Sure, you mildly root for him as he begins the film as an office worker who absolutely despises everything about his life. But in the end, he’s not a character I found myself identifying with. He makes a switch to killer with a relish that borders on evil, and in only one short scene does he question the morality of killing for the greater good. His focus for much of the film is training to kill his father’s killer and gaining power, but I never captured any sense that he was interested in the greater good until wanted_2.jpgperhaps the end. Even then it seemed more for self-preservation and revenge. And so what I ended up with in Wanted is a heck of a lot of fighting and bloodshed that certainly entertained me, but I ended up watching it from a disinterested perspective: I never emotionally invested in the main character’s survival or cause. In many ways, the supporting actors suffer the same fate: Fox (Angelina Jolie) remains too aloof to care about, and Sloan (Morgan Freeman) was too dry to root for. To a degree, Wanted ends up being a film about a bunch of morally questionable assassins beating the crap out of each other. And watched from this angle, it’s the difference between watching a sports game where your favorite team is playing and watching a sports game between two teams you care little about.

And this is a shame, because Wanted is clearly a film of vision, creativity, and style. There are so many wonderful elements in this film. Even though it’s not my type of movie, I found myself sucked in through the action. If only they could have made me care.

Score
Pace: 66
Plot: 57
Action: 69
Consistent Premise: 70
Script/Quotes: 62
Characters: 63
Acting: 78
Villain: 61
Body Count: 58
Time to First Dead Body: Watch Died
Babes: 62
Hunks: 54
Explosions: 61
Special Effects: 83
Stunts: 62
Ending: 66

Overall: 64 (Better if they made me care)

[tags]Wanted, movie review, action movie, Timur Bekmambetov, James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman[/tags]

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