Five minutes in to WANTED I was sure that I’d be messaging a select group of friends and urging them to hit the cinema this weekend to see the film for themselves. Wanted enters the room with its balls out, and starts smacking you in the face with them the instant that you make eye contact with it.
After an initial introduction, which is both brutal and a little mystifying, we’re introduced to Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), a lowly office worker who suffers through the wrath of his overweight, and overly self-important boss (Lorna Scott), and lives with the knowledge that his supposed best friend (Chris Pratt) is nailing his obnoxious girlfriend, Cathy (Kristen Hager), by downing anxiety pills. As a google search for his own name confirms, Wesley is a no-body.
Director Timur Bekmambetov [NIGHT WATCH, DAY WATCH] has managed to make parts of this film feel extremely low-budget, and imbued much of the film with an independent flavour. I’m sure that some of this flavour comes from the fact that this film has been adapted from a graphic novel series, however not having read the source material myself, I can’t really be sure as to how much of the ‘OFFICE SPACE’ texture Bekmambetov is responsible for himself.
Juxtaposed with these gritty looking, low-budget-feel sequences are the full-blown, hard-core action sequences which eventually envelop the whole film. And they are the opposites in every sense, all believability is thrown out the window as cars perform aerial flips, bullets bend, brains are blown out in slow-motion, and all logic is defied. But while asking an audience to suspend disbelief to go on a wild thrill ride is not always a bad thing, along with the sense of believably, out the window goes all sense of morality too.
One night, while stocking up on anxiety pills, Gibson is approached by the mesmerising Fox (Angelina Jolie) and informed that the father he never knew has been killed, and that Cross (Thomas Kretschmann), the man who killed his father is now after him. Gibson’s willingness to believe Fox’s story grows when she and Cross begin exchanging gunfire right there in the Quik-e-Mart.
Gibson has his whole heritage, and inheritance, laid out in front of him by the ever-fatherly Morgan Freeman, but is understandably shaken by the revelation that the father who walked out on his family when Gibson was only a week old, was in fact a member of a thousand year old fraternity of assassins, and that this fraternity is now attempting to recruit him into its ranks.
For the most part I enjoyed watching Wanted, it’s an over the top action movie aimed right at the popcorn movie addict. However, I can’t say that the film has had any resounding impact on me. Perhaps because of it’s blinding pace, but Wanted really failed to engage me on anything more than a surface level. Once Gibson embraces his perceived destiny he only hesitates to kill a chosen target once, but after some back-story for Jolie’s character, thinly disguised as a motivational talk, Gibson gleefully takes on the role of assassin and kills ‘marks’ without hesitation.
The problem is that we really don’t know anymore about the characters surrounding Gibson, and he makes such a transformation himself, that it feels like all of his character development too has been lost. It’s a little like watching a fireworks display, when the movie starts taking twists and turns with in the plot, rather than have any emotional impact, you find that you simply turn to watch the pretty explosions happening in a different part of the sky. When it’s all over, you just go home, and you certainly don’t bother messaging your friends and telling them to rush out to see it.