"This is me taking back control of my life. What the fuck have you done lately?"
- Wesley (James McAvoy)
At a glance: In his first mainstream Hollywood movie, Russian director Timur Bekmambetov goes way over the top with a violent, blood-spurting, often achingly silly film featuring one of the most obnoxious, unredeeming heroes ever seen.
Wanted is about a nervous, downtrodden young man who finds that his true fate is to be the top dog in a fraternity of world-stabilizing assassins that get instructions on who to kill next by reading irregular threads delivered by a ‘loom of fate’. Yes, that’s right, a loom of fate. Why are you looking at me like that? Oh, it’s because I’m not Morgan Freeman – when he delivers the line, he makes it sound credible. There’s in-your-face violence from the get go, as multiple 2-D bullets fly toward your head and into multiple skulls, which explode in a banquet of red. This continues pretty much throughout the picture, culminating in a loud, non-stop bullet bloodfest complete with heavy metal music. The superhero qualities and comic book origins of the assassins perhaps might blend better with comic book violence, but instead we get a more Tarantino/Rodriguez reality. There’s style galore – lots of super-slo-mo, etc. If you’re not grossed out, you’ll be thoroughly entertained. Unfortunately, I did not like the way this film glorified violence. It ends with a powerful call to arms that scarily seemed to speak to the sniper in all of us. Do we really need people to love guns more and to get more riled up?
As if that wasn’t enough, we top it all off with a scene that celebrates animal cruelty in a way that is so far over the top that I suppose someone thought it was funny. But why then use rats? Why not go the whole way and blow up 600 baby fur seals?
Wanted also features a near-staple of many action films: the young, annoying character (usually male), meant to cater to the younger movie-going audience. In this case, it’s James McAvoy, who, it must be said, is very good at being annoying (I’m not sure if that is a compliment or an insult; again, like the exploding heads, this will lie in the eyes of the beholder). Angelina Jolie and Terence Stamp round out the cast. Marc Warren, a personal favorite of mine from the great British TV show Hustle, has a small, virtually non-speaking role, and is killed in a stomach-churning, mindlessly brutal, sick way.
"Never has a mainstream movie made more of a fetish from splattered brains."
- Stephen Himes (Film Snobs)
"For any red-blooded, alpha male who loves to masturbate while armed - this is your movie."
- Garth Franklin (Dark Horizons)
"The most interesting thing about Wanted is that its protagonist is one of the most unlikable action heroes in memory."
- Bryant Frazer (Bryant Frazer's Deep Focus)
"As the body count rises, so does the portentous tone, and the relentlessness of Bekmambetov's overamped style becomes oppressive."
- David Ansen (Newsweek)