Wanted is a movie that fits right in with what we’ve come to expect from summer blockbusters. The action is noteworthy. The plot is somewhat lacking. But overall, it is fun to watch, a sight to behold, and one of the more memorable movie-going experiences you’ll have this summer.
Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) lives a meaningless life as an account manager at a nameless firm. But there is more than meets the eye, because he’s a blood-member of a thousand-year old society of assassins called The Fraternity. They can bend the trajectory of bullets. Have perfect aim from miles away. Take punishment, and dish out even more. Wesley’s father, who left him at an early age, was the most brilliant of the bunch, and he’s been murdered by a renegade member of the Fraternity. The only one who can save the Fraternity is Wesley, who is recruited by Sloan (Morgan Freeman) and trained by the aptly named Fox (Angelina Jolie).
It’s always fun to watch a training sequence, if for anything, than to better relate to the character. Wesley invents his craft as he goes along, and is far from the perfect assassin. We’re given narration through his eyes intermittently throughout the movie as a conduit into this secret fraternity.
But what really makes this movie is the eye-candy we’re treated to. The action sequences are The Matrix meets Blade with a hint of 300 sprinkled in for good measure. The idea of bullet-time is given a new twist (literally and figuratively), with bullets bending through the air, like a pitcher throwing a mean slider. At points, the bullets even crash into each other, causing them to listlessly fall to the floor.
Guns are fired from impossible venues – while twirling mid-air through a car, or on top of a moving subway – and a healing tank allows the violence to rise to Quentin Tarantino -like levels while still keeping the characters healthy and nimble. The action becomes almost cartoony at points, which requires suspension of belief (and of physics) to really get into the action.
Still, it’s a sight to see and a spectacle to be enjoyed. No one will argue with the streamlined action sequences that dominate most of the movie.
For all of the well-crafted action sequences, there were problems in the exposition. For starters, Wanted attempts to combine the anti-machine elements of The Matrix and Office Space, but does it with only limited success.
In The Matrix and The Office, both movies rebel against idea of wearing a shirt and tie every day, and the themes are consistent throughout, with the plot rarely shifting off this core concept. (Both are of course done in their own ways – The Matrix has Neo literally fighting a man in a suit while The Office has Peter Gibbons fighting a printer.)
In Wanted, Wesley also has to deal with an unforgiving boss in an oppressive work environment with a girlfriend who’s actually sleeping with his “best” friend. But after Wesley discovers the fraternity of assassins, the “rage against the machine” mentality is mostly forgotten until the end. Wesley’s not killing corporate goons or those who stand for oppression. He’s just … well, killing people. It makes Wesley’s last line in the movie – “What have you done lately?” not have too much grounding.
Another problem comes with the point of Wesley’s mission – hunting down the killer of his father, who is attempting to destroy the fraternity. There is a plot “twist” near the end that comes as a mild shock, but was probably meant to have more of an impact than it actually did. The practical effect of this “twist” is an excuse to have another 20 minutes of extra action time.
The easier solution would’ve been just to ditch these two elements of the story line. Wanted is not a movie where an intricate plot or character development is entirely necessary for a satisfactory movie experience. Instead, it is a movie that jams on the accelerator at the start and sees no need to let up — which is what makes it the perfect summer movie.
Rating: ** ½ (out of 5)