If you haven’t already doled out your $10 or $13 to go and see this movie, put your crumpled dollar bills back in your pocket book and back away slowly from the ticket counter at your local Cineplex. Wanted was most un-wanted in my book and I have more than a few reasons why.
Wanted is the epitome of gratuitous onscreen violence. Saving Private Ryan? Schindler’s List? Even 300? The violence in said movies was completely contextual. Whether that context was historical, socially based, and even the graphic novel basis which provided the visual aesthetic for 300 and other films such as Sin City, these were all viable, respectable platforms for the inclusion of violence. Although Wanted is based on a graphic novel, it does not at all merit the kind of grotesque detail and attempts at stylizing some of the most gruesome displays of human on human violence portrayed on the silver screen. Do we really need to see a bullet pushing through someone’s forehead and exploding on to the camera lens in slow motion? I think not. Not to mention this film blatantly glorifies violence. Thinly veiled behind characters appearing to desire the best for humanity? Not even. A giant, splashy effects-laden set-up for an ending filled with redemption of primary characters, changes of heart? Don’t even think about it. This film represents a sheer baseness of humanity, one that might be well suited as the backdrop for the wet-dream of a pubescent boy severely addicted to video-games.
The plot on Wanted is more convoluted and probably more lacking than any movie I have seen this summer. I don’t think I’m giving too much of a spoiler away when I describe the way in which this supposedly ancient team of assassins called The Fraternity acquire the names of their targets through a secret code in the threads of a giant loom. Yeah. The performances of Angelina Jolie suits her, I suppose and she is aptly named Fox. James McAvoy does probably the best job he can at the shoddy scripted dialogue he was given-and yet I am dissappointed at his presence in the film if only because he has so much potential and clearly can carry a more respectable movie (See: Atonement). Why Morgan Freeman uttered an affirmative to this movie is beyond me. The main plot line involves what’s supposed to be a twist, but it is never explained. The narrative clearly and deliberately misleads its audience throughout the movie and the story is flimsy at best. Some scenes do not even seem to be in the right place.
The director Timur Bekmambetov is particularly known for the successes of his Nightwatch movies also lower on plot than might be desired but certainly rich in visual stimulation and a fair amount of interesting “lore” to at least give the appearance of being more meaningful than it probably actually is. I enjoyed those movies to a point, but the likable ideas presented in Wanted are even fewer and far between. I liked the healing-pools in which the wounded are encased in an opaque wax substance which breaks upon their awakening all set up in room which I can describe as a cross between a Zen atmosphere and a Medieval setting. The idea of curving bullets was interesting at first, but became so contrived as the set pieces became more and more grandiose and ridiculous. I have in mind the end in particular, which for those who have seen the end will probably agree, takes the idea of curving bullets to an almost laughable degree—laughable if only what had come before and what occurred during that scene didn’t make your heart sink to your stomach.
Thematically, the movie was very rough for me. From the very beginning, the film took on a tone that immediately put me in an upset place. I could feel that I was not going to like this movie and my premonitions where reinforced with nearly each subsequent scene, even though I was actively searching for the film’s merits all along the way. The essential message of the movie is that everyone deserves to be killed. Every individual on this planet has done and probably will do something again that they deserve death as punishment for their sins. While this message might contain truth, the hand of death never belongs to the hand of man. Other than this, the film is theologically bleak, splashing death in the face of theatergoers as casually as pebbles in a pond, and made me leave the theatre feeling sick to my stomach.
I can honestly say that no amount of special effects, the top of Angelina Jolie’s butt or the 20 extra pounds James McAvoy bulked up for the role made up for my utter disappointment with this movie. I wanted to like it. I wanted to be wowed. I wanted some kind of redemption, some glimmer of hope for the main character and some look forward into how he might be different after his experiences or how he might seek to alter this twisted system of degradation. Instead, I was numb. After the credits began to roll on Wanted, I wanted to forget.