The summer of 2008 has been filled with overhyped blockbusters that are guaranteed to make money, no matter how good or bad the movies actually are. Sometimes the hype is deserved (“Iron Man”), and other times the hype isn’t so warranted (“The Love Guru”). Other deserving flicks that deliver the same goods as the Hollywood movies go under the radar and either find a home on DVD or in a garbage bin. In what could be the unexpected action hit of the summer or just another audience-less bust, director Timur Bekmambetov delivers a fast paced, no-holds-barred special effects driven blast in his new film “Wanted” that unfortunately leaves its audience wanting more from its big name stars, but works perfectly as a vehicle for James McAvoy – one of the best actors working in modern film.
McAvoy stars as Wesley Gibson, an unassuming nobody living his life day by day in a dead end job, and with his cheating girlfriend in his pathetic apartment. Wesley thinks himself a loser, often Googling himself to find no results and no answers.
One day a chance encounter with Fox (Angelina Jolie), leads Wesley to his ultimate fate. Wesley finds that he is in fact more than what he seems when he learns of his recently murdered father and his superhuman abilities as a professional assassin. Wesley is introduced to The Fraternity, a thousand-year-old elite group who specialize in randomized elimination. The group, led by Sloan (Morgan Freeman), explains to Wesley his fate and through an exceedingly clichéd montage our hero becomes killer certified and able to curve bullets and… grab a spindle out of a textile loom?
Much of “Wanted” is excessively over-the-top in terms of its clichés and usages of cinematic action that we’ve seen in many films before. The magic and allure of bullet time as invented by the Wachowski brothers in “The Matrix” is overused in this movie and in such a surplus that the visual technology becomes as irrelevant as it was when it was parodied a million times after Neo’s tale. The visual effects are often exciting in “Wanted” yet is does not pioneer nor impress as is could have.
The film doesn’t disappoint in delivering non-stop action, but getting drowned in action can take a lot of out an audience member. The script is adapted from the hit graphic novel of the same title by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones and both Bekmambetov and his writers Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, and Chris Morgan do a great job at presenting a film that feels like it comes from the pages of a comic. Many of the action sequences (except for the aforementioned montage) and dialogue have the same texture and reciprocate the styles and characterization of the modern comic book. A lot of “Wanted” works well in displaying this adjustment from book to film even in its most disappointing scenes.
Nevertheless, one would also suppose that an all-star cast including the great Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie would deliver stellar performances and overshadow McAvoy, but in fact they accomplish quite the opposite.
Freeman plays his typical, omniscient character who always has the answers and can be depended on for wordy speeches and implicit comfort. He’s natural for the role intended, but it would have been nice seeing an actor who doesn’t play the same character like Freeman. Jolie is absurdly cast, and besides looking fantastic she adds nothing to the role and in fact fizzles much of “Wanted.”
The real reason to see this movie besides fulfilling a drug-like fix for over-concentrated action is James McAvoy. However unprofessional and uncouth to write in a film review, McAvoy is absolutely badass in the role. His transformation from lowly loser to steel assassin is superb and while film narration is usually pointless, McAvoy’s cool American accent adds a perfect flair of sarcasm and enjoyment. It’s incredibly refreshing to see a talent like McAvoy in this kind of film, as it helps to affirm his amazing ability to fit into any genre.
From the family adventure “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” to the character drama “The Last King of Scotland,” to the spralling romance “Atonement,” McAvoy had already proved he had talent. No matter how “Wanted” does in the box office, it can be safely said that this young Scottish actor is headed for bigger and better things.
“Wanted” is not the best film of the summer by far and is not exactly worthy to take the weekend box office (go see Pixar’s little robot instead). Wait for the DVD if you want, but definitely try to check this out to see a film that could skyrocket McAvoy’s career into the new Hollywood A-list. His performance is definitely not Oscar-worthy but this young thespian will certainly find himself walking down the red carpet in the next few years.