Movie News & Reviews

Jolie helps make Wanted a trashy treat

The trailers for Wanted made it look like The LobotomyMatrix: people flying through windows in slow-mo, doing weirdthings with bullets, engaging in comically improbable carchases--dumb, in other words, but with a slim chance to be very, veryfun.

"But they can curve bullets!" I told my friend when trying to explainwhy it could be good despite looking so stupid. "I'm not sure theseguys have heard of science," he said, then launched into a lectureabout sonic booms and the breaking point of human wrists which lasteduntil I woke back up in the theater and turned off my phone like theconsiderate human being I am. I must have hung up so hard it brokehis phone, actually, because he hasn't answered my calls since.

But who needs friends when you've got movies? Weird people, that'swho. The same kind of weirdies who wouldn't appreciate all thecartoonish violence and absurd twists Wanted is chock full of.

James McAvoy is your standard everyday coward: pushed around by hisboss, cheated on by his girlfriend (with his best friend!), dependenton meds to control his anxiety attacks. What he doesn't know is hisfather, who left when McAvoy was born, is a member of the Fraternity,a thousand-year-old society of assassins dedicated to maintainingorder in a chaotic world.

But his father is killed by Thomas Kretschmann, a member turned roguewho then comes after McAvoy, too. He's saved in the nick of time byassassin Angelina Jolie, who brings McAvoy to the Fraternity, tellshim about his heritage, and offers him the chance to join them andthen hunt down the man who killed his father.

Did I mention the Fraternity was founded by a society of weavers, andthey get their kill orders from a giant binary-speaking loom? Well,they were and they do, and most of Wanted is just asdelightfully insane. Director Timur Bekmambetov may be Russia'sgreatest contribution to culture since the dancing bear. Okay, that'staking it too far (launching dogs into space won't soon be topped),but the man knows how to put together an exciting action movie thatturns its "using bullets to shoot other bullets"-level stupidity intoa strength.

It helps that it's funny. As a sort of poor man's Edward Norton fromFight Club, McAvoy plays up a wussbag brand of comedy at oddswith the rest of the movie's slick ultraviolence and sexy, deadlyassassins.

His part and Bekmambetov's breakneck direction makes for a pretty neattrick: intentionally ridiculous without descending into the "hey lookhow silly and over-the-top we are" tone that makes so manysupposedly "fun" movies into unbearable clever-fests that make youwant to punch your own brain out just in case you're ever struck bythe urge to write a screenplay proving that you too have seen manyaction movies and considered some of them silly.

The humor slows down somewhat in Wanted's second half whentraining scenes threaten to bog down the larger plot -- as fun as it isto watch McAvoy get repeatedly beat up during his transformation fromoctowussy to super-stud, I'd like to know what that dastardlyKretschmann's up to, too.

But when it meanders, it's usually up to something entertaining, evenif that something is a cacophonous train crash that, while done in thename of good, clearly costs hundreds of innocent lives. I'll readilyadmit Wanted's morality is sketchy at best, and if you dosomething stupid like think about it, it may be outright repugnant.

Screw that, though. Dissecting meaning in a movie where the killerstake orders from an omniscient loom is about as relevant as ourcollective desire to find out which of Angelina Jolie's tattoos ruboff and which don't: sincere, but that's not really what she's herefor. (At least, not for you suckers.) Wanted, likelast year's Shoot Em Up, is funny and frenetic, highly stylizedand personalized.

Trash? Perhaps, but it's the kind you'll want to throw yourself into and wallow around in.

Grade: B+