Wanted

2008, Movie, R, 110 mins

Review

WANTED
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Fresh off the blockbuster success of sprawling horror-fantasy epics NIGHT WATCH (2004) and DAY WATCH (2006), Kazakh-Russian director Timur Bekmambatov tackled Hollywood on its own ground with this comic book-based shoot 'em up. The result is slick, stylish and super-violent, but also oddly dull.

If ever a pathetic cubicle slave needed Fight Club, it's Chicago accountant Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), whose life is an unrelenting hell of underpaid boredom and emotional abuse. His boss is a fat, spiteful bitch, his girl friend is a cheating bitch and his best friend is the low-down creep sleeping with the cheating bitch -- even Wesley's ATM has him pegged as a loser, flashing taunts along with the requisite bad news about his bank balance. There isn't enough medication in the world to control Wesley's anxiety attacks, crushing headaches and existential despair, but there is a cure: The Fraternity. Descended from a secret society of righteous medieval weavers, the Fraternity is dedicated to maintaining the balance of good and evil through selective assassination, and Wesley's dad -- who abandoned him at birth -- was the best damned leveler of the cosmic playing field the Fraternity ever produced. Except, of course, for Cross (Thomas Krutschman), the rogue Frat boy who killed him. Murder is Wesley's destiny, says Sloan (Morgan Freeman), the Fraternity's elegant paterfamilias; all he has to do is reach out and grab it... after being taught the way of the gun, the fist, the knife and the stare of death that makes it possible to slow down time until you can curve bullets around corners and shoot the wings off living flies. Wesley's instructors include lethal super-vixen Fox (Angelina Jolie), blade-happy Butcher (Dato Bakhtadze), no-nonsense Gunsmith (rapper Common), the unhinged Exterminator (Konstantin Khabensky) and Repairman (Marc Warren, of UK TV's Hustle), who fixes bad attitudes, "bad" in this case meaning insufficiently amoral and bloodthirsty. When they're done with him, Wesley has connected with his inner natural-born killer and is ready to take his marching orders from the Loom of Fate -- an honest-to-God textile machine that sends binary-code messages via miswoven threads -- and avenge his father's death.

There's a world of difference between Scottish writer Mark Millar's scabrously hypnotic graphic-novel series Wanted and the movie version penned by Michael Brandt, Derek Haas and Chris Morgan. Millar's blood-spattered wish-fulfillment tale of a turned worm unfolds in a world ruled by a hellbound confederation of super-villains who not only killed every super-hero who ever lived but also erased every trace of their existence; Brandt/Haas/Morgan's darkly idealistic tale revolves around a chivalric brotherhood bound to uphold abstract ideals in a "me, my, mine" world -- they've scrapped Millar's grotesquely hypnotic perversion of the DC universe in favor of a generic fable about honor, brain spray and absolute power corrupting absolutely. McAvoy delivers a strikingly nuanced performance as Wesley and Bekmambatov puts a high gloss on the increasing preposterous goings on, but in the end it's an idiot fable, all sound and fury signifying nothing. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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