Another week in Movieland, and another comic book/graphic novel/scribbling-on-fag-packet writ large on the big screen. And just like the best talent scouts and the seediest old men, Hollywood’s started gettin’ them while they’re young. Wanted was snapped up by Universal after just one issue, a graphic novel that, frankly, has ball-all to do with the film.
Ok, so most of the character names survive the jump. James McAvoy’s Wesley Gibson is still a wimpy little office boy who learns of his crazy-cool assassin powers and then has to go off killin’, and Fox, played by Angelina Jolie, is still a sexy, but deadly, female assassin, the kind of character that grown men who read comic books would not want to lose if their favourite graphics were made flesh.
The similarities stop there, though. Wanted, the comic, is about a cabal of supervillains who go around blastin’ foos. Wanted, the film, is about a group of assassins, descended from a clan of weavers (yes, weavers), who take their orders from – wait for it – the ‘Loom of Fate’, a device that is essentially a giant sewing machine that churns out coded tapestry with various names on it. With the textile-based subplot woven into (ouch) a straight ‘boy learns destiny’ tale, Wanted doesn’t just verge on the ridiculous, it dangles over the jagged edge of incredulity waving its wang in your face and playing a trumpet made from bits of old dog.
Taken as a serious dramatic work, in which things make sense and follow some form of logical pattern, Wanted is out on its arse from the first minute. However, the film unleashes its secret weapon almost as soon as it high-kicks down the road to Nonsense-ville.
Enter Timur Bekmambetov, and some of the most raucous, bloody, and downright entertaining action you’ll see all year.
The maverick (mental) Kazakh director of Night Watch and Day Watch quickly turns Wanted into a non-stop festival of gore and gunplay. Time slows down, time speeds up, there are explosions and car chases every other scene, and a lot of peoples’ heads get turned inside out by bullets, bombs, and ruddy huge knives. In the tradition of the likes of Crank and Ong-Bak, Wanted bombards the viewer with big wedges of action, so that you don’t have time to think about the obvious failings of the story.
It’s the cinematic equivalent of dropping a pizza on the ground, then chucking a load more toppings on it so your friends don’t notice. Is it a quality meal? No. Is it technically any good? No. But if you put good enough stuff on the top, then people will go away happy.
A lot of the action is cribbed from the Matrix movies, but then complaining about that is like complaining that your shoes are too comfy, or that your TV has too many channels to choose from. The pace is great, and McAvoy and Jolie have a good chemistry, with the Scot pulling off a believable, if not textbook, Yankee accent.
A shame then that the final third threatens the good work of the FX teams and the guys mixing the fake blood. A horrendous use of the oldest rug-pull in the book (guess which one, then think “They couldn’t possibly do that” – that’s the one), and Morgan Freeman suddenly trying, and failing, to channel Samuel L Jackson and you leave unable to work out whether you just saw a great action movie, or a really odd superhero flick that must have been written on the back of a beermat one night.
In the end it’s neither. Wanted’s flaws, while well hidden at the time, are too obvious to ignore. Weavers? Looms of Fate? Near-constant use of Wilhelm screams? Come on. The pros are too good to discount though, the blistering action and solid performances mean that it’s a really entertaining ride.
Wanted, then, is the classic “night in” movie. The kind of thing that a group of friends can stick on, have a few beers, have a chat, completely ignore the machinations of the plot, and look up from their nachos to gawp at the amount of claret on display. As a cinema experience, it’s far from perfect, but still a laugh. But just you wait for the DVD…
6.5/10 (8 if you can blag a private screening and fill the place with nice rugs and booze)