For the vast majority of moviegoers, the movie version of Wanted stands out as a highly entertaining action film that preserves the comic’s core premise and cheeky attitude while taking the story into very different but still satisfying territory.
The film is most similar to the comic in its first act, as unhappy slacker Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) endures a life gone wrong. He works for an abusive, overbearing woman in a miserable cubicle-farm job; his so-called girlfriend is sleeping with his supposed best friend; and he suffers frequent anxiety attacks that prevent him from taking control of his life.
All that changes when the beautiful Fox (Angelina Jolie) shows up and inducts Wesley into the world of the Fraternity of Assassins. The group’s leader, Sloan (Morgan Freeman), explains that Wesley is the heir his long-absent father’s role in the organization as a super-talented killer who carries out the orders of fate.
Initially skeptical, Wesley is won over by the power that comes with life in the Fraternity. He takes quickly to his training, learning how to “curve” bullets around object to hit their target with the help of the Fox and the Gunsmith (hip-hop artist Common).
At this point, the film ventures off into generally new territory.
Director Timur Bekmambetov, whose previous films include Night Watch and Day Watch, shows his affection for video game imagery in sequences that would be right at home in the latest version of Burnout or Grant Theft Auto.
Particularly breathtaking are the auto chases and a lengthy sequence on a train in which Wesley and the Fox pursue Cross (Thomas Kretcshmann), a former assassin who is ostensibly out to kill Wesley and bring down the Fraternity. Much of the sequence is refreshingly done with old-fashioned stunt work, seamlessly integrating with convincing CG elements.
That sequence ends with a revelation that borrows a plot element from the comic, but puts its own twist on it to make it fit into the direction the movie has taken.
The film is not without its flaws. Some new elements are just silly, such as the Fraternity taking its orders from a device called the Loom of Fate, which weaves the names of those the group must kill into the fabrics it produces. Interesting characters get short shrift and logic takes the usual summer blockbuster back seat to spectacle. But the fresh action sequences and the compelling and usual arc of Wesley’s character quickly outweigh such complaints.
The performances are all around very good, with McAvoy in particular convincingly turning Wesley from loser into gun-wielding action hero. Jolie brings a sexy subtlety to her part, which many moviegoers may find smaller than expected given her prominent role in the film’s marketing.
The film deserves credit for a particularly strong ending that provides a final echo to the comic and doesn’t avoid taking the film’s violent premise to a logical conclusion.
How Wanted will play with audiences is harder to see. R-rated blockbusters like this one have faded in recent years as studios tone down the violence in a bid to lure larger audiences. That Wanted delivers genuine thrills and a compelling, though definitely adult, story should be enough for it to stand out as a successful action movie.Related Content: