Movie Review – Wanted (2008)
by TOM NIXON
When Wesley Gibson’s (James McAvoy) voiceover starts ranting about his miserable failure of a life at the beginning of Wanted, you almost expect Brad Pitt to pop up and burn down his apartment. His boss is a bitch, his girlfriend is a bitch, and he’s a pansy who just doesn’t know who he really is. We find all this out through a series of incredibly QUIRKY examples which childishly imitate similar scenes from Fight Club. Fox (Angelina Jolie) tells Wesley that he apologizes too much, and he says “I’m sorry about that.” He then says “I’m sorry” at about 6 inappropriate points in the film. This is the level of humor we’re dealing with. McAvoy is a poor man’s Ed Norton, and his take on the archetypal modern man, existential warts ‘n all, is obnoxious as much as anything else. He gives us variations of “f— you” quite frequently, at one point he hits his workmate over the head with a keyboard and the keys spell out “f— you” (well, the second ‘u’ is a tooth). Frequent scenes like this, and one where he imagines a dialogue with an ATM, even make “honest to blog” seem cool.
It’s no surprise Wesley starts trembling at the knees when expert assassin Cross (Thomas Kretschmann) starts hunting him in a supermarket, and a foxy Jolie comes to the rescue, smashing everything up in the process. It’s no surprise that he gradually starts to feel alive either, at least not for those of us who’ve seen Fight Club (hint: everyone). In fact, the only thing continually surprising about this film is the incompetence of the writing. Jolie’s boss Sloan (Morgan Freeman) leads an assassin’s guild called “The Fraternity,” who’ve been told to kill Cross by a code woven (quite literally) into the fabric of the Loom of Fate, which helps keep balance in the world. Don’t ask. The abysmal narrative hides behind glib dialogue which isn’t half as clever or ironic as it needs to be, along with more quirky montages of Wesley predictably running the gamut from denial and horror to acceptance and determination to follow in his father’s footsteps. When we do hit serious moments, they’re jarringly out of place in a way that reminds of, say, Lucky Number Slevin.
The kinetic action scenes are full of Matrixesque visual fireworks with Jolie oozing sexuality, and this may be enough for some viewers, but I found Bekmambetov’s usual epileptic camerawork became tiresome pretty quickly, as did all the heartbeat noises and slow-mo shots of bullets hitting each other. The story somehow remains nonsensical and totally predictable at the same time; there’s a miserable excuse for a twist and a shocker of an ending line, which patronizingly asks the audience whether they’ve done anything worthwhile lately – not something you especially want to hear having just wasted 100 minutes of your life. Wanted wanted to be about identity – are we to be defined by our occupation? Our blood? Our actions and creations? If it’s the latter, these screenwriters need to take a long hard look at themselves.