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Monday, June 30, 2008

WANTED (2008) - Timur Bekmambetov

2008, the year of the comic book movie... although recently, every year has seemed to be the year of the comic book movie, marches on with another adaptation. Where as the bigger names, the Batmans, Iron Mans and Hellboys are more recognisable to the general public, Wanted, adapted from Mark Millar’s comic of the same name, will be less recognisable. It arrives with less of a fanfare than the other films mentioned, and doesn’t feature leather or rubber clad super humans. Instead, it’s a bit of a gun fetishist movie.

Wesley Gibson is an office-working drone with a cheating girlfriend, miserable apartment and a life that nobody would envy. He’s prone to anxiety attacks and apologises constantly for things that aren’t even his fault. One day he’s approached by a woman in a drug store. She tells Wesley his father was one of the worlds’ greatest assassins and that he is a marked man himself. Wesley is introduced to The Fraternity, an ancient brotherhood of assassins who take orders from fate and assassinate people in order to keep the world stable. Wesley is told he has inherited his father’s gifts and must use them to take his father’s place as one of the world’s top assassins.

Some comic book movies take themselves very seriously. Which works for them. Some are a bit camp, which fits in with some views of the comic medium. And then you have the films that are just about the action. And this is the category Wanted falls into. You really need to check your brain at the door, because there is nothing in the film that really needs any use of the old gray matter. It’s a film that’s all explosions and bullets. There are some real tongue-in-cheek humour moments and plenty of gore. As long as you’re aware of what you’re letting yourself in for, there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had from the film.

The plot of the film is pretty thin. Paper thin. It’s yet another origin story, but since there’s not much to the characters, the origins part is more like a training montage from the Rocky films. These characters don’t have super powers or fancy gadgets. What they do have, however, is a love for guns and bullets that is a little odd. The type of love a man should really reserve for his partner. Or a very fine pair of pants. But if you’ve seen the trailer, you pretty much know what to expect, so don’t complain about the lack of plot.

The performances are very much in tone with the plot. There’s little to do but provide mouths for dialogue and hands for guns. James McAvoy plays the weak Wesley quite convincingly, and can deliver the action parts when necessary. Although there’s little bare knuckle fighting to be done, he has two legs for running, a finger for pulling a trigger and he uses them well. Angelina Jolie has little to do but smirk, stand around and look sexy. She pretty much delivers that by turning up to the set, and when she’s required to deliver some action, she too has little problem. Everyone’s favourite mentor, Morgan Freeman plays Sloan, the leader of the Fraternity. I have a feeling Freeman did this one for the dollars, as it’s not exactly a taxing role. Although it’s worth the price of admission alone to hear the man who embodies gravitas say the line ‘kill this motherfucker.’

Director Timur Bekmambetov previously delivered the almost incomprehensible but visually entertaining Russian films Nightwatch and Daywatch. Those films were thick with visual style, and Bekmambetov delivers the same here. There are some moments that will either make you grin or roll your eyes. Some of the action sequences get a little confusing. But it’s a frenetic film and it makes no apologies for being that way. Really, Wanted is 2008’s 300. It’s absolutely nothing but testosterone and action. For some, that will fall far from the mark of a decent film. But if you accept the film for what it is, you’ll at least be entertained.


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