Wanted Movie Review
Review by Nathan Samdahl (B+)
I agree with John Stewart's interview with James McAvoy, saying that this movie "should suck, but it doesn't." For all intensive purposes a story about a thousand year old fraternity of assassins who get their directives from a giant loom should not be good. Especially, when the background of the fraternity is only explored in a cursory manner and the story only allows for few and brief moments of character development.
In the hands of a lesser director, such as Brett Ratner (the Rush Hour movies, After the Sunset) or whoever the hell directed the Covenant, this film would have been awful. But it wasn't. It was directed by Timur Bekmambetov, the Russian phenom who brought us Night Watch and Day Watch, the vampire films which received much acclaim. Bekmambetov's direction makes this film. Period. He recognizes what the premise of the film presents him with, a chance to create a ton of eye-catching action sequences. He also realizes how the back story of the fraternity and the mystery surrounding McAvoy's father is both necessary, yet far less interesting than watching McAvoy penetrate skulls with his bending bullets. Even in these slower moments, Bekmambetov's visual style takes hold, creating great visual interest when there should be little.
The film also benefits from a strong cast, surprisingly strong for the storyline; McAvoy, Jolie and Freeman are all great while supporting roles played by Terrence Stamp and Lorna Scott (McAvoy's cringe-worthy boss) also hit the mark. McAvoy holds nothing back in the film; at many points I thought his head would simply explode during one his many "anxiety attacks." He shines in every scene, particularly during his outburst in his Office Space-like office and the closing action sequence filled with plenty of carnage. Jolie is as hot and deadly as ever and her brief bath house appearance offers yet another bonus for the many guys that will flock to this one. Also, while it is apparent that Freeman probably strolled onto set, was given some lines and delivered them with little to no prep (does he really need any?), he still managed to demonstrate that no one says, "Shoot that motherf@er," better than him. Rehearsal or not.
The action scenes, which seem to get increasingly preposterous throughout the film, are some of the most entertaining and exciting action sequences of the summer. Similar moments in other films that suffer from shitty overpriced computer graphics are corrected here, particularly the many slow motion bullet shots, which not only look great, but are creative not only in their camera movement, but in the crazy trajectories of the bullets. It's not too often that you see a bullet fly through a donut and four car windshields en route to a target miles away. Also, to make this clear, the film is not only CG based; McAvoy gets his ass kicked and kicks some ass of his own in more genuine punch-to-the-face sequences as well including his involvement in a rather painful knife showdown.
Perhaps the only real negative about Wanted is its title, which would surely fade into oblivion if not for the strength of the film. You would think that just a bit of the creativeness that went into making the film could have been put towards the title. While Wanted does not fall in the same category as the Terminator movies or True Lies that manage to interweave great stories with great action, this is still one of the most entertaining films of the summer. If you can, do this one as a double feature, Wanted in the theater and Night Watch when you get back. It's hard to top assassins and vampires back-to-back.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.