ENTERTAINMENT/FILM/REVIEWS

A Black Man’s Review Of “Wanted”

WANTED (R)

MOVIE BIASES:
Curve my bullet, baby!

MAJOR PLAYERS:
James McAvoy (Atonement), Angelina Jolie (A Mighty Heart), Morgan Freeman (Kiss the Girls), co-writers Michael Brandt & Derek Haas (3:10 to Yuma), and director Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch).

THE DEAL:
Remember where you were and how you felt the first time you saw “The Matrix?” Well get ready for “Wanted.”

Apathetic account manager Wesley Gibson (McAvoy) is stuck in a dead-end job with a dead-end girlfriend, nonplussed by his dead-end life. That is until Fox (Jolie) double-barrels her way into his life, whisking him out of an impromptu supermarket shootout and into a whole new way of life, governed by the code of the Fraternity, a brotherhood of assassins. Led by the stately Sloan (Freeman), Wesley rapidly trains for a Ph.D. in the assassinatory arts in order to carry out the Fraternity code (”Kill one, maybe save a thousand”), take out the man who murdered his anonymous assassin father, plus embrace his destiny and inner hitman within.

“That’s the way you start a movie, dammit!” - Me

Boasting mind-warping special effects in addition to a visually and aurally superior, distinct directing style, Timur (I’m not even gonna chance messing up his Russian last name) delivers the epitome of the summer action movie in “Wanted:” sweet cars, hot women, and freaky-cool, relentless action. How much do I love this movie? Why, I want to copulate with it and breed brilliant little heart-racing action flicks!

I heard somewhere (erroneously, I’m sure) that there are only three stories ever told: boy meets girl, good versus evil, and who am I; everything else is a derivation. Daring to meld all three, “Wanted” is an Olympic swimmer of a movie, not taking a breath until it’s damn well ready - and even then it’s just a tiny gulp of air, giving it enough to power through what are normally repetitive strokes.

Everything in this movie is a cooler, more inventive and frenetic version of what we’ve seen before in an action movie. Curving bullets, subway car-top wrestling matches, extreme omigodthatdidnotjusthappen set pieces, an urgent Danny Elfman (Batman) score, gonzo special effects by Timur’s own Russian special effects house Bazelevs (more on that later)…Even the Brandt & Haas script brims with honor, humor, loyalty to a code, fate, and a quest for identity, all tied together by recklessly entertaining, comic book action DNA from Mark Millar & J.G. Jones.

“Like an apostle, your task is not to interpret but to deliver.” - Sloan

But oh, how this cast delivers! Nobody does sexy darkness like Angelina Jolie, who’s wonderfully typecast as Angelina Jolie, er, Fox, with her raccoon-chic, smoky-eyed, dangerous self. Although the presence of “I’m not a rapper, I’m a SAG card actor” Common (Smokin’ Aces) is little more than diverse window dressing, Morgan Freeman lends his intrinsic gravitas to the proceedings as Fraternity leader Sloan - as well as the funniest line in/coda to a speech of the summer.

Anchoring the movie with a surprisingly bulletproof Yankee accent, young Scottish heartthrob on-the-rise James McAvoy, who seems to carry all the potential talent for superstardom that James Franco missed, is a casting coup as bumbling, anxiety-stricken Wesley, a Joe Below-Average (”You apologize too much,” complains Fox dryly) who embraces a deadly, off-the-beaten-to-a-pulp path. McAvoy’s such a complete, underrated actor that his transformation from a desk jockey Dilbert to a gun-wielding Kimbo Slice feels as organic and believable as the rest of this movie is not. (I don’t care if bullets can ricochet off each other or if someone can truly shoot the wings off a fly. I DO care about seeing it, though!) McAvoy brings a knowing, sly charisma to his downtrodden, office drone mode as well as in his “I can curve bullets” lethal weapon mode. His slight frame and plain, Tom Hanksian looks gird the “Everyman as Superman” throughline of this handsome, valiant picture.

Yes, this movie looks REEL good. Stretching visual imagination to the limit, Timur and company deluge the senses with ridiculous originality. Going out on a limb here (not really): If there is any justice in the world, “Wanted” will win an Oscar for visual effects. I said to my screening partner that “Timur must be some coked out, living-in-a-crack den genius. How DOES a mind come up with this stuff???” Unlike, say, “Speed Racer,” the story in “Wanted” story demands its director keep pace with the creativity, racing through at least two climax-worthy sequences en route to a preposterously adrenaline fueled climax - AND a nice, unpredictable third act twist.

Like that last sentence, this is almost too much for one movie! Even in the face of double-digit ticket prices, this may be the rare movie where you’ll stumble out feeling like YOU owe IT money, “Wanted” so over delivers to however outsized your expectations (and I do tend to dream big).

This movie is a heapin’ helpin’ of unexpected. The starmaking, charismatic turn by McAvoy. Intensely original action scenes that defy gravity and your imagination. Morgan Freeman cussin’. My mouth was barn-dooring it throughout most of this flick - and yes, it IS a flick. Not a film, not cinema, but a hardcore, badass, (curving) bullet-to-the-brain, hard-R, action FLICK. Um, “Wanted”? Can I have my breath back now? It’s been two hours and the credits have rolled. Thank you.

I’m sorry but this movie consistently gave me “Matrix” tingles. “Wanted” may not redefine action movies, but I’ll tell you what: It certainly reinvigorates them.

@@@@ REELS
(FOUR REELS)
An urban legend/instant classic.

UTC’s resident film critic Edwardo Jackson is the author of the novels EVER AFTER and NEVA HAFTA, (Villard/Random House), a writer for The 213 Magazine, and an LA-based screenwriter. Visit his website at www.edwardojackson.com where his new novel I DO? is available NOW.


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Comments

June 26th, 2008 at 12:05 am SweetSis says:

Dang you made this sound hella good.
Oh, and FIRST!

June 26th, 2008 at 12:21 am Red Razor says:

Jeah!!!!!! Cannot wait! This slick looks good as hell! I’m glad you liked it like that. Makes me want to see it even more.

June 26th, 2008 at 1:11 am Chatty Cathy says:

U know comparisons 2 the Matrix border on blasphemy if unfounded right? This had better be good or I’m coming 4ya! :)

June 26th, 2008 at 1:51 am young clean bastard says:

F*ck Ironman, f*ck Hulk. This is what I been waitin for man. This blog got me hyped. I’m in there Friday night no joke.

June 26th, 2008 at 4:15 am Edwardo Jackson says:

Y’all don’t even understand how sick this movie is. Getting “Matrix” tingles just thinking about it. Come hollaatyaboy after you see it this weekend. WANTED will curve your bullet, too!

TRD

And yes, Sis, you ARE first. :-)

June 26th, 2008 at 5:23 am CeaseNYC says:

Now that’s what I’m talking about. Yeah man I’m trying to see this a.s.a.p. Angelina and Matrix-like action is a hell of a collab.

June 26th, 2008 at 6:48 am Diallo Tyson says:

You know me, always willing to throw a bucket of cold water on Ace’s reviews. But, not this time. I actually do want to see this flick. The shot where McAvoy’s car flips over another car, while McAvoy is shooting through the window? Pretty dope. That shot got my creative juices flowing again.

June 26th, 2008 at 7:19 am Elsa Harkins says:

sounds like a total boy flick.
Am I wrong?
You didn’t describe nothing for gals who don’t dig action.
And if Common is just a passing diversity ploy…

June 26th, 2008 at 7:36 am superjonsey1 says:

I really can’t wait to see this now. I thought seeing fine a*** Common on the big screen was enough of a reason!

June 26th, 2008 at 9:38 am Lottie Markus says:

Morgan? Common? Angelina? Nothing but a word Edwardo. Count me in it to win it.

June 26th, 2008 at 10:44 am Kettle Blk says:

I have a crush on that McAvoy dude… he is a cutie!

June 26th, 2008 at 11:22 am Edwardo Jackson says:

Y’all have had SEX AND THE CITY already the summer and MAMMA MIA! is coming out just around the corner. What more do y’all chick flickers want?!?! lol

Sittin’ back and waiting for the hallelujahs this weekend,

TRD

June 26th, 2008 at 11:48 am pmatters says:

This is what an action movie is suppose to be like. I’m there E!

June 26th, 2008 at 12:21 pm Craig Joseph says:

Ed’s right ladies — let us have this one!!

June 26th, 2008 at 1:58 pm heatmizer says:

Dang You Should Be In Real Estate. You Sold THE HELL outta this one!

June 26th, 2008 at 3:06 pm Tina says:

Come on Edwardo can’t we share?! I am really looking forward to seeing this, your review didn’t help. lol.

June 26th, 2008 at 4:36 pm nicq says:

I’m there

June 26th, 2008 at 4:38 pm thelma says:

I may have to skip my pedicure for this one!

June 26th, 2008 at 5:04 pm Michelle Windsor says:

HEE HEE I like your style. Not too stuffy, not too crazy- perfect. I’m taking the family to this here FLICK. Gas prices be damned!!

June 26th, 2008 at 8:27 pm chica22 says:

Angelina doesn’t do anything for me and if Common is barely in it then its just another action “flick.” I’m waiting for Hancock.

June 26th, 2008 at 10:42 pm Friendlee says:

McAvoy - I didn’t think he could pull it off. I only have seen him in last King of Scotland. So he kind of turned me off from it. Its his story or Angelina’s story? The ads make it like hers but you are saying here its more his?

June 27th, 2008 at 1:23 am rene perez says:

Too bad to hear Commonz not it in long and is not a standout But still sounds real real good.

June 27th, 2008 at 2:34 am Byron Black says:

Sounds Like Pure Testosterone. I’m Not Big On Movies But This Might Be Right Up My Alley. Matrix Is A Favorite On Many Levels. Action And FX But Also A Hell Of A Creative Plot. You Said There Was A Twist In This So I Might Catch This On Your Recommendation Brotha.

June 27th, 2008 at 4:23 am Edwardo Jackson says:

Heatmizer - I’m a California licensed real estate agent, no lie. And a California certified bartender. I can get ya drunk enough to sell you a house.

Friendlee - McAvoy’s in just about every frame. It’s undoubtedly his story and he is a stud, a genuine actor. I suggest ATONEMENT, RORY O’SHEA WAS HERE, hell, even STARTER FOR 10 to see the man put in work. This movie does not disappoint - and McAvoy overdelivers.

June 27th, 2008 at 9:53 am Ed80 says:

O hell yea! You wrote the hell out of that! But I was already sold. Tonight. 9:10 show. Its on.

June 27th, 2008 at 1:02 pm Destah Owens says:

Man! You got me wanting to go out and see that tonight for top dollar. This sounds like one serious “Flick” indeed. I’m with Young Clean on this one. HYPED!

June 27th, 2008 at 1:58 pm buttabrown says:

I’m sorry Edwardo. You REALLY steered me wrong on The Happening. It sucked! I mean like I almost walked out and left my date in there sucked. LIke, Mark Walhberg was acting like a total wuss and that Zooey chick was unbearable!

June 27th, 2008 at 5:08 pm Diane Brown says:

Sorry, Edwardo…action was great, story was whack (wack?…wak?)
Mad that I went to the midnight showing and now can barely keep my eyes open in front of my computer

Come on…rats?

June 27th, 2008 at 5:55 pm culturepop says:

Everyone is saying its really a good film. Why Morgan Freeman always gotta be God-like? Is it the voice or just that he is overall badass? LOL

June 27th, 2008 at 10:02 pm Bam Saldana says:

Caught the matinee and let me just join the chorus to say this is the best movie of the summer period. Period!
My heart raced. I jumped in my seat. I oohed and aaahed. I clapped and slapped my knee like a hat-wearing lady in church. Angelina is riDICulous. McAvoy (didn’t know who he was) was VERY good. Morgan kills it at the end. The twist I didn’t see coming at all.
And yes, Diane, RATS! And WEAVERS! And a bunch of other crazy stuff is pulled off somehow to me. it is totally original and thoroughly entertaining (to me).
Like Edwardo says it is MORE than worth the money. If i could have, I wouldve left a tip. VERY good ‘flick.” Edwardo is way right on this! SEE IT!

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