DVD Release Date:  December 2, 2008
Theatrical Release Date:  June 27, 2008
Rating:  R (for strong bloody violence throughout, pervasive language and some sexuality)
Genre:  Action/Adventure, Science Fiction/Fantasy
Run Time:  1 hr. 48 min.
Director:  Timur Bekmambetov
Actors:  James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Common , Kristen Hager

Someone once described to me the difference between the science fiction and fantasy genres by saying, “Science fiction asks you to believe one fantastic premise; fantasy asks you to believe several.”

This summer’s latest over-the-top action extravaganza Wanted, is billed as neither “sci fi” nor “fantasy.“ And yet the movie asks its viewers to buy one preposterous premise after another, so much that pure “fantasy” is the only film category that would have this ridiculous story.

The tale here begins in a voice-over from corporate drone Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), narrating his own admittedly sad little life. Not only is Wesley without a purpose, he is neurotic and pathetic as well. He grew up without a father. His boss demeans him. His shrill and demanding girlfriend is cheating on him with his best friend. Whiny Wesley lacks the gumption to stand up for himself, relying on prescription meds to go along and get along with life’s problems. He spends a great deal of time longing for a higher calling.

That calling is introduced to him when a beautiful woman named Fox (Angelina Jolie) one day confronts him at the pharmacy, and informs him someone wants to kill him. And right on cue, a stranger with a gun takes aim at Wesley, whom Fox quickly jumps in to protect. The ensuing gun battle and frenetic car chase ends with smooth and stoic Fox keeping Wesley alive, but turning him into an even more anxious mental mess.

Fox takes Wesley to her boss Sloane (Morgan Freeman) who informs him they are a part of a centuries-old guild of textile weavers called “The Fraternity,” who are also assassins with near superhuman powers. His father, a member of the Fraternity, was recently murdered and those murderers are now after him. Wesley’s depression is not an anxiety disorder but an unusually fast heartbeat that will give him all the phenomenal powers that they have.

Wesley is at first reluctant to join the guild, but quickly decides (after telling off his boss and bashing in his best friend’s face) to throw in with the guild. As he endures the Fraternity’s brutal training process, consisting largely of getting tied to a chair and beaten senseless, he learns that he can do some amazing things—like shoot a gun so the bullets curve around objects. He has lightning fast reflexes. Assassins can jump across vast distances (Matrix-style from skyscraper to skyscraper) and shoot targets from miles away. And if you get injured, no problem. The Fraternity has special healing baths that will allow you to recover in just a few hours.

To say this action is far-fetched would be the understatement of the film year. It is ridiculously absurd without even the barest nod to physics. Much of the film rips off much better action movies like The Matrix and Batman Begins, two films (believe it or not) that are infinitely more plausible. The CGI is largely cartoonish in several key action scenes, damaging believability even further.

To top off all of this foolishness, the assassins get their marching orders from a gigantic “Loom of Fate” that Sloane interprets for the group. There is no explanation for how this works beyond the fact that the Loom acts like God, imparting a sort of binary code on cloth that tells Sloane who they need to kill. Wesley struggles a great deal with the guild’s sense of “fate” and “justice,” but the Loom is to be obeyed without question.