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Absurd Wanted Attempts to Mimic Better Films

  • Stephen McGarvey Crosswalk.com Executive Editor
  • 2008 7 Jul
  • COMMENTS
Absurd <i>Wanted</i> Attempts to Mimic Better Films

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.

Jolie and Freeman sleepwalk through their roles with nothing interesting to say beyond the typical platitudes. McAvoy’s performance stands out, however, convincing as wimpy Wes and earnest as action hero Wes. There are times when he is a lot of fun to watch as his world gets crazy. But in addition to excruciatingly little explanation for all these fantastic elements, the transformation of this character itself appears too radical to be believed. A few beat-downs and one training montage later, he stands ready to stop being timid and do his Fraternity masters’ bidding.

This performance, while excellent, does not really balance out the mountains of ridiculousness. Wanted gives us nothing more artistic or exciting than stylized blood spatter flying from gunshot exit wounds.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Wesley takes prescription drugs for anxiety. Fraternity member sneaks Wesley some vodka while he is in training.
  • Language/Profanity:  A great deal of verbal vulgarity and obscenity. God’s name spoken profanely several times. When wimpy Wesley finally reaches his breaking point, he humiliates his boss by cussing her out (in retaliation for all the time she spends verbally abusing and degrading him).
  • Sex/Nudity:  Wesley is living with his girlfriend although there seems to be not an ounce of affection between them (physical or otherwise). Rather his girlfriend is cheating on him with his best friend. In two quick scenes, the two are shown having sex on the kitchen table, she in her underwear, he without pants bare backside exposed. Fox is shown once getting out of the bath, bare backside exposed. Fox and Wesley share a long kiss in front of his girlfriend intending to make her jealous.
  • Violence:  Excessive and graphic violence. Wesley smashes his best friend in the face with a computer keyboard (because he slept with Wesley’s girlfriend). Several slow motion, close-up headshots with a great deal of blood splatter. Several gun battles throughout the film. Brutal fist fights and knife fights. Wesley is viciously beaten several times in his training process, even to the point of being stabbed through the hand with a large knife. Often Wesley is severely injured during his training (thank goodness for those healing tanks). Once shot, Wesley digs the bullet out of his arm with his own fingers. Many times in the film bystanders are put in peril or killed due to the Fraternity’s “assignments.” A man is stabbed though the chest in a knife fight. Several car chases and crashes, one where the participants evade the police. A violent, over-the-top, train crash, where many innocents are seemingly killed. Bombs are tied to rats who are then released to cause various havoc. In one gun battle Wesley shoots a man in the head, then continues to shoot other thugs through the body, holding it up as a shield. One character commits suicide.
  • Worldview:  Several times Fox steals cars. There is a great deal of discussion here about fate and one’s purpose in life, but it is largely inane and no insightful conclusions are reached beyond a purpose of killing people. The assassins serve “fate,” and how they interpret what fate requires of them is the most ridiculous part of the film.