Wanted sees two rising stars getting their ‘big shot’: renowned Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (perhaps easier to remember as ‘the guy who directed Nightwatch’) directs his first English language movie, whilst young British star James McAvoy follows up hits Atonement and The Last King of Scotland with this action film, based on the comic book series by Mark Millar.
Wesley (McAvoy) is a loser. He works a job he loathes, sleeps with a girlfriend he hates, and generally does not leave much of an impression on the world. That is until Fox (Angelina Jolie) comes into his life. She finds him and introduces him to The Fraternity, a secret society of assassins who kill targets chosen by the mysterious Weavers. Their philosophy: kill one to save one thousand. Wesley’s late father (who left when he was two) was one of them, until he was killed by a renegade member. Wesley must be trained by Fox and The Fraternity’s leader, Sloane (Morgan Freeman) in their fighting techniques (which includes bending bullets) in order to seek out the renegade and get his revenge.
Wanted's plot feels like all three Matrix movies squished into one: a great opening; an action-heavy but so-so middle; and a disappointing final third. Whilst it’s unlikely that the Wachowski’s will be ringing their lawyers, there’s an awful lot of similarities, particularly a scene where Wesley has to shoot a fly(!). Freeman may as well have put on a leather jacket and whispered “Free your mind”. That said, there’s a lot of fun to be had here - no shocks, but a lot of big bangs, blood spurting and some genuinely funny gags.
McAvoy was an inspired choice as Wesley. Had this been, say, Paul Walker in the lead, this would have been a fraction of the film. Adeptly putting across his character’s pathetic/apathetic existence, you feel Wesley’s a genuine loser. The same can’t be said for Jolie, who gives an incredibly phoned in performance. She’s the eye-candy, simple as that. There’s one speech that attempts to flesh her out as a character, but it’s not enough. She looks good with a gun, and fantastic without any clothes on, but other than that she is redundant. Morgan Freeman is great, even though he’s here for the paycheque, and the only one who seems to have his tongue in his cheek. Hearing him swear is worth the ticket price alone.
Wanted is a great ride - bullets, babes, and tonnes of wish fulfilment for the frustrated male 9-to-fiver. However, it takes itself far too seriously, especially given its very silly script (again, we point you to the ‘shoot the fly’ scene). Great fun for a Saturday night, or for a slow weeknight when it’s out on DVD, but not the action movie reinvention that the brilliant trailers promised.
Dir: Timur Bekmambetov
Starring: James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman.
Release date: 27th June.