Sunday, June 29, 2008

Film Review: Wanted

The term 'suspension of disbelief' was coined for a movie like Wanted, an adrenaline rush of a film that was highly entertaining, but rife with ludicrous visual effects normally associated with a graphic novel recreation (which Wanted just so happens to be: director Timur Bekmambetov's loose rendition of Mark Millar's comic book of the same name). Unless you are willing to toss your disbelief to the wayside, this will be a film you will not enjoy. Bekmambetov clearly pays homage to the work of the Wachowski Brothers, they of The Matrix fame, seeing as the vast majority of Wanted's visuals rely on stop-time motion to account for protagonist Wesley Gordon's insane ability to channel his 'anxiety' for the sake of mowing down targets with pinpoint precision. Wanted has the makings of a premier action film: a peon rises to hero status, explosions and gun claps pulse about the moviehouse from one jaw-dropping scene to the next, there is no romantic subplot to speak of, villains are killed in ways unimaginable, and the dialogue is uber-racy. What more could you want for the price of admission?

5. James McAvoy
James McAvoy (Wesley Gibson) was to Wanted as Gerard Butler was to 300: a rising, unknown Scottish thespian from Glasgow who can star in a major Hollywood production. McAvoy, a young talent starring opposite Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman, absolutely stole the show with some of the film's best dialogue and the ability to believably wield a gun and partake in various stunts a la Harrison Ford in the Indy series. His performance alone is worth the price of admission (and is far more substantial than Keanu Reeves's portrayal of Neo in The Matrix. Also, McAvoy has signed on to play Bilbo Baggins in Guillermo del Toro's The Hobbit, due out in December 2001. Score!).

4. Minor Characters and Catalysts
Some of the smaller roles in the film (the vast majority of the assassin league "The Fraternity") were cookie-cutter representations of rehashed action film personas. The smack-talking, machete-wielding Butcher with Latino flair (despite being played by an eastern European actor). The brooding Gunsmith with little to no dialogue (played by hip hop legend Common). The Repairman with no premise but to pound Wesley Gibson into submission. Each of them was incredibly bland and did little to convey the Fraternity's prowess as cold-blooded killers. The only small roles I cared about, super-assassin Cross (Thomas Kreschmann, who poignantly played Jewish sympathizer Wilm Hosenfeld in The Pianist) and munitions specialist Pekwarsky (Terence Stamp), were barely on screen long enough to build a character arc. And all I wanted was more from each of them; in short, their lack of screen-time was utterly disappointing. Then again, there is always the possibility of a sequel, a trend Hollywood will surely continue with Wanted's inevitable success.

3. Tongue-in-Cheek Narration
Many a great film (i.e. Casino, Memento, Goodfellas, 21, etc.) has been brilliantly accentuated by insightfully delightful narration; Wanted is no exception. Wesley Gibson's voice over was hilarious and did plenty to keep the plot moving, but was not so apparent that it took away from the juicy special effects and imagery. Wesley's core behavior and personality (from non-entity to swash-buckling hero) was well-conceived via the power of narration.

2. Action Film Homage or Rip-Off?
Fans of the Star Wars and Matrix series will groan over the amount of times Wanted blatantly rips off key scenes and ideas from the works of Lucas and the Wachowski's. The mythology of Star Wars and the premise of The Matrix (a nobody supplanted in a dead-end job is salvaged and rises to the top) is packaged into a film that barely measures up to the aforementioned pieces that came before it. Without giving too much of the plot away, I will say this: Wanted does very little to deem itself original the way a film like The Empire Strikes Back and the original Matrix did.

1. Action, Action, We Want Action!
Much like Michael Bay's Transformers, the Bourne series, the Italian Job, and the Transporter series, Wanted delivers potent action-packed sequences and serves as a hybrid of each of these outstanding films. Curving bullets, train-hopping, and high-octane car chases were actually quite amazing if one can look past the sheer farcicality of it all. Then again, the climactic train sequence in the Alps was pure nonsense, even by Wanted's standards. I blurted out, "That's absolutely ridiculous!" less throughout the course of Indiana Jones's latest than I did throughout Wanted, and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had ludicrous moments aplenty (is a floating boat-car really that indestructible?). Even so, every moviegoer purchasing a ticket to witness this film already knows what to expect: an edge-of-your-seat affair laced with some 'gimme a break' moments. All in all, Wanted was a worthwhile moviegoing experience--even better when you consider the treat of a Defiance trailer during the previews.


Marc V said...

Amen to the review. It was a good movie, but I was rolling my eyes on several occasions because the feats of strength and stunts defied the laws of physics. Also, your points about the train scene are very well stated. I would recommend people save their money and wait for this one to come out of video. They will have a good time watching this film, but I don't think they need to spend the ten dollars, which be spent far more wisely on The Dark Knight.

Michael said...

thanks for the heads-up guys, i'll go see wall-e and hancock this week.

also, james mcavoy rules in last king of scotland. he is quite the talent.

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