From the director of NIGHTWATCH and DAYWATCH comes a stylised, action-packed graphic novel adaptation that has everything you could wish for from the genre.
Awesome shots of the surreal, massive car chases, unbelievable stunts, expensive CGI and Angelina Jolie naked. It’s also everything you’d expect though… well, except maybe for the casting of former Mr. Tumnus, onetime (fictional) associate of Idi Amin and period drama luvvie James McEvoy in the title role whose every aspect seems to be the antithesis of his previous roles.
Wesley Gibson is a nobody, a boring accounts manager in an insignificant office in the US. He’s prone to panic attacks, his girlfriend is sleeping with his best mate and he is generally deeply unhappy. However, when Angelina Jolie crops up shooting bullets round corners and stuff, his life goes a bit crazy. It turns out he is the sun of an elite assassin who was part of a secret society who undertook killings on the basis of prophesies churned out by a loom (I kid you not) and his untimely death has necessitated the initiation of formerly insignificant Wesley Gibson into their ranks.
The set up is silly, over-the-top and basically totally crazy: but this actually works in it’s favour. By embracing the complete absurdity and other-worldliness of the graphic novel on which the story is based Timur Bekmambetov has managed to integrate some high-octane car chases, shoot-outs and quality scenes of violence (we all saw the awesome keyboard smash scene well in advance right?) which totally get the adrenaline pumping.
The powerful cocktail of masterfully set up action sequences, scenes of violence that make you wince and completely wild stunts that make you bounce with childish glee is what makes this film a must-see, but the plot is great fun too. From the initiation of Wesley into the secret society to the superb twists that greet the final scenes, via the painfully intense training scenes, the story ticks over beautifully without feeling forced, having unnecessary action or dialogues scenes crowbarred in to pander to anyone: ESPECIALLY not the sceptics who demand explanation for the logic defying events that unfold on screen.
What’s more, the acting is totally credible. McEvoy occasionally lapses into a small Scots lilt, but I was never pulled from the moment by that (though I hold my hands up and admit to being English and thus not the best commentator on this). He also managed to bulk up pretty well and doesn’t just manage the action sequences but makes them look good!
Morgan Freeman puts in a predictably sturdy performance as the man at the top of the pile, and Jolie sizzles as the dangerous heroine of the tale who accompanies Wesley through his rollercoaster ride. The icing on the cake is that lovely little treat that always makes a jaunt out into the world of the unbelievable that much sweeter – well integrated humour.There are few corny one-liners, instead we chuckle along at running gags based on the personalities of the characters and receive wry visual comments on the feats unfolding in front of us.
For example, Wesley’s insignificance punctuated by us watching his computer screen as he Googles his name and receives no results, or his apology as he assassinates someone. A single phrase here or there that isn’t just jammed in as light relief but actually gels perfectly with the content is one of the finest features an adrenaline-fuelled action thriller can provide.
One final comment though before I finish my high praise of this great film: WANTED isn’t very original. The CGI action smacks of THE MATRIX, the car chases could be a bizarre cross between SPEED RACER and any action movie of the 80s, or possibly even GONE IN 60 SECONDS, and there are moments of SIN CITY in there too. But none of this detracts from the fact that this a movie that oozes joy at its own excesses; it’s fast, fun and awesome to watch.
This article was first posted on June 25, 2008