Wanted: Action Flicks with Swagger

Wanted comes on like a batshit crazy mash
up of a dozen other genre movies but manages to stand alone as something
more by the time it reaches its frenetic and bloody conclusion.

It’s probably (but only a
little) curmudgeonly to gripe about the apparently permanent change
in the visual language in action films in the post John Woo/Matrix era,
and Wanted displays no shame in borrowing (well, taking wholesale)
poses and sequences from these and other predecessors. Director Timur Bekmambetov refreshingly stands apart from lesser
imitators, though, by going for broke from the outset, invoking a jokey,
sardonic vibe that charges action confidently and unapologetically staged
in an R-rated universe.

James
McAvoy
(last seen
in Atonement) plays Wesley Gibson, a corporate
minion suffering the kind of existential ennui that comes standard with
shackles to a cubicle. In a telling bout of self pity, Wesley
confirms his insignificance by Googling his name and returning zero results.
Unknown to Wesley, however, is his status as the lone heir to a world
class assassin and his latent ability to assume a role in the Fraternity,
an ancient order of executioners carrying out the will of fate, killing
few to save many. Angelina Jolie (Fox, a member of the Fraternity)
and Morgan
Freeman
(Sloan,
its leader) soon save Wesley from an attempt on his life and in harrowing
fashion force him to confront and release his true nature as peerless
killer.

Wanted is adapted from
the best-selling six-issue comics miniseries (now compiled as
a graphic novel
)
by popular writer Mark Millar and artist J.G. Jones. Producers were so enthused
and eager to translate the comic to the screen that they began developing
the project while Millar and Jones were still completing the series.
Though not a completely faithful translation (the comic portrays a
world in which villains conspire to successfully eliminate all
the world’s superheroes) the film retains many key characters, sequences,
and elements, and the series’ playful mean streak and dark wit.

Bekmambetov is known to film
and horror fans as the director of the Russian blockbuster Night Watch and its sequel Day Watch. Wanted is his first
English language film, and his sensibility immediately injects a swagger
that has been missing from recent action fare. Though some of
the movie’s better set pieces and visual treats are partially betrayed
in trailers, ads, and other movies from which they are borrowed, inventive and entertaining sequences abound, and the aforementioned
embrace of adult-oriented mayhem is welcome and long overdue for action
fans weaned on the stuff that supposedly inspires these types of movies
in the first place.

Wanted will be far too
outlandish and lurid for some (perhaps many), but it crashes into theaters
mostly self aware and with those traits going for it as much as against
it.

Wanted opens in theaters Friday (June
27)