Wanted: A 4 out of 10 Movie Review: Is it The Matrix 4?
In the last 3 months, the world has been inundated with promotional trailers and interviews for the film Wanted. This is Timur Bekmambetov’s 8th film following the reportedly excellent Nightwatch series. It has become clear from the promotional bumph that this film included some quite interesting effects showing bullets being bent and lots of silly car chases. In fact, this film I had hoped was to be the “Seabiscuit” of the many movies of 2008. In fact I had quiet hopes that it would kick Iron man’s butt! You realise of course that hyping a film to such a degree is completely futile. No matter how good you expect it to be, it is unlikely to fulfil your expectations. Nevertheless, I happily skipped into my local cinema and looked forward to a lot of guns, leaping around and utter silliness that can only be found on a cinema screen.
What I received initially was a few disappointments. Miscasting it seemed was a big issue here (primarily the fault of Mindy Marin, the casting director). It seems that someone somewhere thought that the “weedy” James McAvoy (so excellent in the Last King of Scotland) would be a perfect action hero. She was wrong. So very wrong. Initially, McAvoy plays an anxiety ridden office worker named Wesley who seems to hate everyone and forces self-ignorance of his ever cheating girlfriend (with his best mate). McAvoy plays this well. He is not happy with the situation his life is in (sounds familiar) and is in a dead end job and takes pills to calm him down. The trouble is these scenes take a long time to get through. This, for an “action film” should have been better paced. When chaos does finally ensue, instead of taking a very nice inheritance and jetting off to the Bahamas, he decides that an assassin’s life is the way to go. Good one. These are not very nice people! If I inherited a vast amount of money, the fact is I would be finding a quaint Caribbean island for sale and enjoying Piña Colada’s along with many other stupidly named cocktails (what idiot named a drink “Sex on the beach”)? Instead McAvoy goes off to join a gang that goes by the name of The Fraternity of Assassins. The fact that this sounds like a bunch of students pulling pranks on each other is neither here nor there. These people are scary. In fact after a little while you watch the “training” process of McAvoy’s Wesley, and you will be told how the Fraternity gets the names of their targets. I bet you’d never be able to guess it! Nope! You’re wrong! Each assassin gets their orders from weaved material (assumedly cotton). This is not a joke! So let’s get this straight. Mr Grumpy is sick of life, inherits a fortune, decides to become an assassin and take orders from cloth! Pardon? Did I fall asleep? Was I dreaming this silliness? I’ll just have to chalk that one up to an hallucinogenic trip by various members of the film crew (allegedly).
So with this group, now named (by me) Psychopaths Anonymous headed by an old dude who reads cloth for a living, our hero Wesley goes and gets beaten up! Wow! If training to become an assassin is basically to be beaten up repeatedly, I must have become a fully fledged assassin by the time I was 13! Each of these characters in the Fraternity seem to have cool names. Jolie plays Fox, Freeman plays Sloan, the bad guy is played by Cross and Marc Warren plays the Repairman (a job that I’d be really good at). Then finally, after all this “coolness” comes Wesley. Did the writers just trawl through hundreds of Star Trek episodes to find the most geeky name held by the most annoying character (Wesley from Star Trek: The Next Generation. He should have died a painful death in episode one dammit). So Wesley is now one of the cool-names-gang and within a few minutes instantly becomes an academic of the Fraternity. What a clever chap. I hate it when directors show a passing of time (usually in a montage) and when they get to the end of it, the character has exactly the same amount of hair length and stubble (or lack of) as he did before the intense training. Surely, a slightly different hairstyle would aid the believability of time passing!
Wesley is accompanied by the unemotional and unnecessary Angelina Jolie. This is the main problem with the film. I realise that these bunch of psychopaths are supposed to be dulled in emotion, but for us to feel a bit of empathy for them, it is important to explore their humanity. They try and do this with Jolie in a scene speaking of her past, but it is spoken with no emotion or repressed pain. Other than sporting many tattoos (far too many to be appealing) and pouting a lot, she is wasted here. I am very glad that a scene with her and McAvoy flirting was removed (previously seen in a trailer). They clearly have very little chemistry and I’m glad this was recognised. In truth the movie is better because of it. In a recent interview Jolie had stated it was good to do an action movie that her sons were proud of. The fact is this film is not for kids. It is too violent, too angry and there are no fluffy bunny rabbits bouncing around on screen. Mind you, if the child was a little disturbed, they might enjoy the scenes with the rats! So for Angelina Jolie’s children, I say to you: “go to bed! You’re too young to watch your tattooed mum run around shooting everyone!”
Despite its obvious flaws though, this movie was highly enjoyable. Predictable in the end, but still well worth watching. Some of the slowdown scenes showing McAvoy in an array of quite disturbing facial poses put you off a bit, but ultimately the detailing is exquisite. Take for example, the cashpoint machine insulting Wesley, or the keyboard being used as a weapon, with its keys flying off in an expletive shown just to the camera. The car chase scene is a little too fast for my liking. Way too much shaky cam to be entertaining. This is a film that makes you look and look again. Take for example the Milling factory. If you look at the sign you think (for a split second) that you spot it saying “killing” or “killers” (instead of millers). You are never quite sure if the sign does change and the director is playing with you, or you are in fact seeing things that are not really there.
So we have a film about a bored office worker who has an ability that few in the world have, who is taken on by a group of “rebels” and they train him to be the best (with lots of shooting, kicking and knife throwing etc). Wanted plays so very much like the Matrix and it is unfortunate. You watch the film thinking you know the outcome. In fact initially the only things that separate these two films are bad language, blood and McAvoy’s narration (which at one point is cringe-making when he tells you he’s going to be “just like his dad”). There is a point though, when the comparisons stop and the film throws you a curveball. As I said before, this is not entirely unexpected, but ultimately very pleasing to see.
After my abuse of the miscasting escapades of Mindy Marin (the casting director). You get to the delicious end of Wanted and all of your thoughts about miscasting are completely abated. There is a final line spoken by McAvoy that MAKES this film. Yes, I deliberately typed “makes” in capitals. I did that to point out how good it was. This ending is up there with Memento in this regard. It makes you want to own this film. All is forgiven Ms Marin. I should have had faith in your casting abilities. This final line, makes you realise that McAvoy (albeit a Scot playing a Yank) was perfect for the role.
Ultimately Wanted delivers. There are flaws (like anything), but Timur Bekmambetov did a fantastic job at making Mr McAvoy et al very endearing. It is a shame that so little of the Fraternity was shared with the audience (other than cloth reading) but with some excellent use of camera trickery this movie is clearly one of the best of 2008. Well worth a viewing and even a second viewing to make sure you saw everything there was to see in the first place.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
If you have seen Wanted, tell me what you thought of the film. Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Does it have a future (i.e. sequel)? Was Angelina Jolie completely miscast, or am I being far too harsh.