Short version: Wanted tries oh so hard to be the next Matrix, but despite insane amounts of action, falls short.
Screen Rant’s Wanted review
No doubt I’ll be taking a lot of heat for this since it seems that across the board, Wanted reviews are glowing and effusive in praise. I’ve seen many comments to the effect of “it was trash, but I loved it anyway.” While I certainly wouldn’t call it trash, it also failed to win me over.
Now don’t get me wrong… Pardon the pun, but going in I really wanted to love this movie. I didn’t go in with any thoughts that it would be high art or deep drama – just a cool popcorn flick. But even in popcorn action movies I can only suspend my disbelief so much.
There are minor spoilers related to the very first scene in the film below.
The film opens with a very cool sequence, which had me quite excited to see the rest of the film – an assassin arrives at an office about 20 or so stories high, and commences to have a gunfight with some other guys on the rooftop of a building across the street. It’s a really cool scene which demonstrates the assassin’s proficiency as he starts taking them out one by one. Suddenly they get the upper hand and he heads back down the hall and launches himself forward apparently at superhuman speed. From there we go from cool to ridiculous.
This is the scene where he breaks through a plate glass window face-first as seen in the trailer, and this is where I started scratching my head – instead of falling, he continues to fly forward, apparently on momentum. Then while still moving forward with no drop in elevation, starts shooting at his enemies. Really, I thought this was going to be some sacrificial scene as he eventually starts to drop, especially from the reverse force of firing his guns… but no. He seems to drop and them magically appears on the rooftop behind the baddies.
This left me wondering: Am I watching a superhero movie or a movie about incredibly ninja-level skilled assassins? This was a question that was never fully answered, and the fact that Wanted takes place in the real word made much of what happens in the movie hard to swallow.
From there we meet anxiety-ridden, cubicle-dwelling Wesley Gibson (played by James McAvoy). His life is in a rut – he’s in a dead end job, broke, has a foul-mouthed, overweight harpy for a boss, and his best friend is having sex with his girlfriend. How such a loser managed to score such a good looking girlfriend is beyond me. Anyway he runs into “Fox” (Angelina Jolie) at a mini-mart, where she tells him his father just died and was a master assassin, right before saving his life from another assassin who seems to be out to get Wesley.
A wild action sequence ensues, that while pretty crazy and unbelievable, was not so much so as to suck the fun out of it. Jolie is pretty great as the cool as a cucumber babe assassin and McAvoy plays neurotic so well that it was hard to empathize with the character. Really I just wanted to slap him at this point in the film.
He’s taken to meet Sloan (Morgan Freeman) who is the head honcho of a cabal of assassins going back 1,000 years and was started by… weavers. There are people who are “special” so some sort of natural gift is talked about – although I found Wesley shooting the wings off of flies without even trying more than a bit ridiculous.
Wesley is hesitant at first, but when he finds over $3 million in his bank account, it causes him to re-evalute things and the following scene in his office where he finally cuts loose on his boss and best friend is pretty damned hysterical.
He heads back and has no idea what the initiation he’s about to go through is like, and let me tell you, it isn’t pretty. As a matter of fact it’s bloody as hell and goes on long enough to make him start questioning if he even wants to complete it. Of course he does complete it and while he wants to find his father’s killer, Sloan tells him it’s not yet time and selects the next victim using a method that you’ll think is either pretty cool or just plain silly.
Again, Wesley is hesitant when it comes time to actually pull the trigger, but eventually he embraces his role as an assassin, which doesn’t really make all that great a hero to be rooting for.
So what was good? Some of the action sequences are balls-out cool. There’s a scene towards the end that hints back to the lobby scene in the first Matrix movie. Also the sequence aboard the train was very exciting. Angelina Jolie is always great to watch with that very cool persona, McAvoy was acceptable in assassin mode and it was fun to watch Morgan Freeman cut loose with some less than genteel language.
On the other hand, rarely have I seen so much style applied to so little substance. While some of the action sequences were great, a lot of the time the cameraman brought “shaky cam” to a WHOLE new level. This wasn’t the weaving and bobbing POV we’ve become accustomed to seeing, this was like the guy was having a Grand Mal seizure while trying to point the camera. Imagine someone holding a camcorder, and then just whipping their arm around wildly while filming and that pretty much describes some it.
The curving bullet thing – yeah ok, if you want to go with it, go with it. I could buy it up to a point, but there’s a scene at the end where it’s taken to such, for lack of a better word, an idiotic extreme that I had to laugh out loud.
Overall Wanted just seemed too self-aware of how cool it was trying to be, with the goal of being “the next Matrix,” and that detracted from it. A lot.