Kevin's Review: Wanted - The Beauty of Blood and Bullets
by Kevin Powers
June 26, 2008
Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) reaches a breaking point amid his cubicle doldrums and smashes his ergonomic keyboard across a colleague's jaw, dislodging keys, blood and teeth. As the bloodied bits slowly fly towards the screen, the keys laughably spell out "Fuck You." It's not a particularly poignant scene in Wanted, but it does embody the hyperbolic, gratuitous ass-kicking that is Russian director Timur Bekmambetov's American debut. McAvoy is joined by Angelina Jolie, an actress who effortlessly (and fittingly) beams temptation of and indulgence in all that is provocative -- guns, cars, violence, sex. Blood and bullets have never been so stylized, never so sexy.
Jolie plays an assassin named Fox who is part of an ancient order of assassins called The Fraternity that is presently led by Sloan (Morgan Freeman). Not just your everyday professional killers, some of the group's members possess superhuman abilities, including the skill to curve the path of bullets. Gibson is recruited into The Fraternity after his estranged father, who possessed such abilities and was the world's foremost assassin, is himself killed. Sloan and Fox know of the genetic potential hidden in the mundane account manager, and that Gibson is the only one who can bring down the kingpin of killers - his father's killer - Cross (Thomas Kretschmann).
Gibson's recruitment into The Fraternity is an extended, bloody mess. The group's tutelage is far from polite and largely relies on instructors such as the Repairman and the Butcher, beating lessons into Gibson until he passes out. A knife through the hand isn't so much a worry, however, considering the waxy aromatherapy tub the group uses to speed recovery of injuries. Other superhero-like aspects exist in Wanted, namely Gibson's ability to produce buckets more adrenaline than a normal person, which affords him outlandish strength, endurance and focus.
Director Bekmambetov has outdone himself with Wanted. Back in Russia, he was responsible for two of the most successful films in the country's history, the coupled Night Watch and Day Watch. The vampire thrillers are some of the most outrageous, hyper-kinetic takes you'll ever see, and you should see them.
Wanted takes many cues from Bekmambetov's previous work, including the ever-present, guiding force of fate. In Day Watch, it was the hokey "chalk of fate" that allowed one to rewrite history. In Wanted, it's the "loom of fate," which knits messages into textiles at The Fraternity's headquarters, informing the order of who to kill next. Where Bekmambetov's previous two thrillers partly become victim to their own overabundance of action, spinning out of control, Wanted skids and slides just enough to keep us gripping our seat, while still maintaining a balanced course.
Unlike most films of this genre, writers Michael Brandt and Derek Hass (both of 3:10 to Yuma and 2 Fast 2 Furious) and Chris Morgan (The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift) weave a surprisingly tight story that manages to avoid unraveling towards the end. There are loose threads, of course: the repetitive talk of fate gets to be a bit corny, in parallel with Gibson's voiced monologue; his transformation from a unmotivated yes-man to a ballsy killer in just a few weeks is also sloppy and contrived. Nevertheless, it seems Bekmambetov has found quite a nice tethering for his exuberance for violent exaggeration.
Wanted is a masochistic indulgence - the to-the-face violence, blood and excitement is so forceful, it leaves you bruised and begging for more. And considering the story's ending and recent news on a possible sequel, we can all confidently pucker up for another hit.