by Jon Quixote
I rolled my eyes when some of the advance word on Wanted compared it to Fight Club. I'm not much of a Mark Millar fan, and I never read the comic this flick was based on, but given the trailers, the Millar comics I have read, and the reputation Wanted had when it came out, I imagined an annoying faux-Palahniuk gloss liberally spray-painted on the plot in an effort to justify the copious & stylistic violence that is the raison d'etre for this latest comic book blockbuster.
But as it turns out, the times when Wanted is pretending to be Fight Club were the only times I actually enjoyed this laughable action movie.
The Fight Club rip-off (down to James McAvoy dressing like Edward Norton for Halloween, complete with nasal voice-over and IKEA references) actually gives Wanted a thematic spine that is more or less nurtured to fruition. McAvoy's character, Wesley, is a corporate drone who spends much of the first act bemoaning his lack of inaction in his dully out-of-control life. When he is recruited into a secret society of assassins, his new life can be described as anything but inactive, but it's not until he learns to start knitting his own sweaters that he actually becomes more than just a sweatshop worker in a different, bloodier factory. And that is the thread of a pretty good movie.
But that thread is woven into a pattern that would be banal and clichéd if it wasn't so unintentionally hilarious. If one was to spoof this movie, one couldn't do better than just to use the original script and add some wonky sound effects and Bob Saget voice-overs.
Exhibit A: This secret society of assassins that McAvoy is recruited into? This cabal that has been around for a thousand years, sculpting the political landscape with the edge of a blade? They get their orders, their targets, from... string.
I am not making this up.
Yes, this yarn revolves around a magical loom that tells Morgan Freeman who to shoot. The third act contains the realization that killing people for a millenium on the orders of the Fruit Of The Loom grapes might not have been the soundest business plan. And lo, Wesley takes control of his own destiny. At least until his pants start telling him to burn things and his shoes suggest they go rape a nun.
But the screenplay is not the only source of inadvertent hilarity in this movie. I can't finish this review without commenting on the soulless, over-the-top action sequences. I know hyperbolic post-Matrix gun play was going to be the driving thrust of this movie, but it's all so over the top here that there is neither thrill nor tension - it's just CGI spectacle with all the depth of a laser-light show. And though the craziness is better when played with a wink, too often it's all so damned grave. At the movie's climactic, operatic moment - it involves Morgan Freeman throwing knitted death warrants at everybody and a magic bullet that just keeps going and going - I just burst out laughing. Even Freeman, with a voice that can order penguins to their doom, can't sell it. He tries very hard, but it's all too silly.
Verdict: Some interesting ideas are crushed by an onslaught of stupid. C
by Jon Quixote