Sunday, July 6, 2008

Wanted - Check Your Brain at the Door

Well, well. Summer begins, and it looks like James McAvoy wants to get away from the heavy-handedness that was "The Last King of Scotland" and "Atonement". Just watch first ten minutes of "Wanted" -- and then the remaining 102 of them -- and it becomes obvious.

"Wanted", from director Timur Bekmambetov, starts off by introducing you to Wesley Gibson, an "account manager" and the most vaginal of pussies getting walked on like a treadmill by everyone around him -- including his girlfriend. Here we see him desperately try to tolerate the birthday celebration of his whale-sized supervisor, listening to his internal monologue telling us about this monstrous event for this monstrous woman (which includes such descriptive gems as "anorexic"). Not much later thereafter, we're transported to a seemingly entirely different world where people can fly (well, not really, but close enough), gunmen can curveball bullets, and "The Matrix's" slow-mo is all the rage again. Oh yeah: It's also brain-burstingly bloody.

Back and forth "Wanted" goes, between cynical "I hate my life" comedy and over-the-top, stylistic gunplay as dear old Wesley is recruited into "The Fraternity" (of assassins) and eventually stops hating his life. Finding out "who he is," so to speak, Gibson now feels he has some sort of purpose in his life -- though of course, he has to come to grips with his new "occupation" as an assassin... you know, killing people and mean shit like that.

I'm going to skip over the "acting" in this movie, as it's entirely moot. The real stars of the show here, ignoring the randomly inserted sarcastic comedy for a minute, are the rampant, overdone but still enjoyable stunts and gimmicks. Watching Gibson fend off an oncoming bullet with one of his own never gets old, and Fox (played by a suddenly-super-skinny Angelina Jolie -- I mean Christ, I'm surprised her lips don't make her top-heavy) atop a speeding train car under doing a limboto fit under a low-hanging tunnel ceiling is pretty hot.

When I say overdone, though, I really mean it. You've absolutely got to make sure to check your brain at the entrance, grabbing that claim ticket before proceeding to drool into a cup. Watching an assassin shoot bullets around corners, or hang out of a speeding car where the front windshield used to be while firing behind the car at an assailant, is one thing. Seeing assassins complete a hundred-foot long jump out of a high-rise office into another building or sniping a target's forehead from miles away, in between moving train cars and through a fucking doughnut hole, is quite another.

The story does throw a common though still slightly surprising twist our way, and the mystique of this assassin's guild (as it were) along with its lore are pretty fun to sit through, but since we just have to get back to the crazy bullet-time action, the little things are fleshed-out only just enough for us to have the necessary "facts" for the plot. Those of you who might have wanted ten extra minutes to explore how "the loom of fate" works (yeah, brain at the door) or more about the The Fraternity's past, or just any lore or mythos you might want, will be out of luck. In terms of lots of backstory, the movie version of Assassin's Creed this is not. It certainly doesn't get any brownie points for throwing in a very brief discussion -- if you can even call it that -- on fate and destiny, on a totally superficial level without any meaningful expansion or impact. Though perhaps it's for the best -- no one wants to sit through another pace-destroying treatise on causality; one Merovingian was enough.

So yeah, "Wanted" gets hokey and stupid. However, it also packs every minute with either comedy, style, or intensity, and even all of the above. The performances are fine and never detract from the dumb fun, and rarely do any lines ever feel forced or contrived -- two things I can't say about horseshit like "The Fast And The Furious". If films like "300" make you giddy (though I should say that "300" is much, much better), you'll very likely have a good time with "Wanted". I certainly did.

(Bonus points for you if you enjoyed Bekmambetov's "Nightwatch"; you'll definitely see some stylistic similarities here. And if you end up enjoying "Wanted" but didn't see "Nightwatch" then mosey on down to your video store or web browser and queue up a copy of the latter.)


Slyde said...

Yeah, REALLY...


Real talk, how oculd ANYONE survive a train crash of those proportions. Really? I mean, I had already checked my brain at the door, but when I saw that, I feltl ike the movie was trying to insult my intelligence. Dudes are healthy enough after that to fight some more too? Eff outta here...this movie is trash.

And it only confirmed what I been telling dudes for years - stop hyping Angelina Jolie, she got no cheeks!

Matthew said...

I have not seen the movie yet. However, Angelina can get it anyway. I have never crossed over to enjoy the fruits of a caucasian gal. She would get it. I recommend " Taking Lives" for your viewing pleausre.

Yes, action movies are being hurt by too much computer and not enough stunts. I am sure it is not as crappy as Aeon Flux or that other super hero chick movie (with the skinny gal from REsident Evil) That was made in 2 days. 1 for Dialogue and the other for computer work.

Can't wait for the next James Bond, Step Brothers, and to see Robert Downey as a white guy playing a black guy made up like a black guy playing in a movie as a black guy.