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And you thought the Hulk had anger management issues — wait till you get a load of Timur Bekmambetov’s new film WANTED. The director of the cult sci-fi flick NIGHT WATCH brings to the screen an angry and violent adaptation of Mark Millar and J.G. Jones’ comic book series. The film pulses with youthful resentment for crappy jobs and an unfair life. At 21, I would have loved this film probably more than I do now that I’m older.
Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy, ATONEMENT) is a big loser. He has a crappy cubicle job with an overbearing boss and his best friend is sleeping with his girlfriend. He has little money in the bank and he suffers from anxiety attacks. While filling a prescription, the striking assassin Fox (Angelina Jolie, TOMB RAIDER) drops a bomb on him — his absent father was really one of the world’s best assassins and that his father’s killer named Cross (Thomas Kretschmann, THE PIANIST) is around the corner waiting to kill him. After a crazed chase through the streets of Chicago, Wesley meets Sloan (Morgan Freeman, SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION), the head of the Fraternity of Assassins. He informs Wesley that his anxiety attacks are really his increased levels of adrenaline that give him superhuman reflexes. So begins, Wesley’s initiation into the Fraternity, one where hazing laws are savagely disregarded.
Right from the start when Mr. X (David O’Hara, THE DEPARTED) leaps out the plate-glass window to a top floor of a skyscraper onto a high rise across the street, we know that reality as we know it isn’t part of this world. The action sequences are outlandish and spectacular. If Superman can fly, Wesley Gibson can spiral a car over a limo and shoot a man through the sunroof. You just have to go with it.
For a good portion of the film, it seems like a standard story of a young man finding the lion inside so he can avenge his father’s death. He’s a wimp, he trains and now he’s a badass. But then the film takes a left turn, moving toward its buried message about fate. This move is essential in making this bloody affair more than just an excuse for humans to let out their frustrations upon the face of another human. It goes from a one-note FIGHT CLUB directed by John Woo to a contemplation on whether we should let our lives be ruled or guided by fate, or rebel against it.
McAvoy is up to the task as both the wuss and the wicked killer, but Jolie commands the screen, creating a character that is both brutal and beautiful at the same time. There is a reason she is a star and she proves it again here. Freeman lends his dignity to this production and elicited the biggest cheer from the audience with a well-timed expletive. But acting isn’t the essential part of this film, it’s not an actor’s film, but it is a film actors like to be in because it makes them look so awesome.
Opening on the same weekend as Disney-Pixar’s WALL*E, this film is a textbook example of counter programming. It’s strictly for adults who can handle face pummeling and slow-motion bullets through skulls. The rage within can be off putting, because it is so striking. This is why the twist levels things out. Since the dawn of storytelling, storytellers have raged against fate or found peace in it. This is just a violent 21st century scream upon the same issue.