Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Wanted: 300 meets Office Space

I saw Wanted last night with my father and sister. For all the aspects of The Matrix that director Timur Bekmambetov obviously ripped off, that wasn't the film that came to mind while watching Wanted. No, its closest kin is really 300.

Aside from the fact that both are comic book movies, there aren't a lot of superficial similarities between the two. But they share the same basic foundation: they're graphically violent, completely ridiculous and unapologetically stupid. If the philosophy doesn't often create great art, there's at least something refreshing about its honesty.

Wanted doesn't violate the laws of physics, it gleefully smashes them into a thousand little bits, buries those pieces and dances on the grave. Watch Angelina Jolie curve bullets! Watch James McAvoy fire a bullet across Chicago with the aid of a telescope! Ignore your brain: it will betray you!

McAvoy plays Wesley Gibson, a mindless office drone whose girlfriend is cheating on him with his best friend. His name brings back zero hits on Google, which I suppose is the 21st century equivalent of no one showing up to Scrooge's funeral. Things get interesting when a mysterious woman named Fox, played by a surprisingly sunken-cheeked Jolie, shows up to haul him into a world of assassins and flexible gravity.

McAvoy does a solid job as the pathetic, perpetually apologizing Wesley, but doesn't really hold up when the character evolves into an action hero. As an assassin, McAvoy leaves a lot to be desired.

Morgan Freeman phones in the role of Sloane, head of an ancient guild of assassins known as The Fraternity, but he does so with the stoic professionalism of an old hand at this kind of thing. Jolie, for her part, doesn't hide her apathy nearly so well, but there's a fan-service scene in The Fraternity's miraculous bath house that'll make the 18-25-year-old male demographic quite happy.

The plot unfolds with relative predictability. Wesley initially struggles with the Fraternity's hardcore Jedi/Matrix/Spartan training, but eventually frees his mind and uses the force to et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Bullets fly and blood flows, both in such staggering quantities that we're quickly desensitized. Yes, yes, we get it, Jolie and McAvoy can spin bullets around pillars and through the heads of hapless mooks. Very impressive.

There's a mildly interesting twist toward the end of the movie, and Bekmambetov makes solid use of Chekhov's Gun. But generally speaking, Wanted just rolls merrily from one bloody action sequence to another. It's a collection of empty calories and trans-fats.

Such is life in the summer movie market. No one ever died because they ate a couple Oreos.

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