At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Wanted “08”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Action-Thriller/ Stars: James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Thomas Kretschmann, Common, Konstantin Khabensky, Marc Warren, Dato Bakhtadze, Terence Stamp, David O’Hara, Chris Pratt, Kristen Hager, Sophiya Haque, Lorna Scott/ Runtime: 110 minutes

I think it’s safe to say that if you ever wanted to see what would happen if a slice of cinema chose to be The Matrix combined with 2007’s underrated run and gun action flick Shoot Em’ Up and then gave the finished product the colors present in a Fast and Furious film then 2008’s gonzo action flick Wanted would definitely fit this billing to a t. Indeed here is an insane to the max, over the top in the best way possible, and visceral times four summer action slice of cinema that has no interest in letting you have a moment to catch your breath. Thus to call it the kind of slice of cinema that’s sole aim is to be an audience pleaser in every sense of the word might just be a wee bit of an understatement. This is because not only is quite a bit of the material in this slice of cinema edge of your seat-worthy, but the various departments behind the camera all do great work and the cast truly is firing on all cylinders. Suffice it to say that yes there are a few flaws to be found here and there, this is one slice of cinema that is not only fairly entertaining from beginning to end, but really truly is an example of popcorn cinema at its finest.

The plot is as follows: So according to the lore set up by this slice of cinema, 1000 years ago there was a secret sect of individuals who chose to assemble and come together due to each and every one of them having become familiar with and cultivated a distinct and quite unique skill they all had in common. That being that due to being able to handle an unusually higher degree of adrenaline than the average person, these skilled individuals can move quicker, think faster, and literally break the laws of physics with as much ease as you or I would have in blinking. As such, what do these unique human beings choose to do with their talents in a way that could benefit all of mankind? Oh nothing much; they just choose to become a league of assassins. Thus we see that this group, now calling themselves the Fraternity, decides to take care of the less than desirable people in this world with the caveat being that they won’t take hit requests from other people. Rather, they will let fate itself be their handler and determine who they need to wipe off the face of the Earth. With that in mind we see that this slice of cinema takes place in present-day (or at least 2008) Chicago where we are introduced to our hero, a young man by the name of Wesley Gibson. Wesley, we are rather quickly able to ascertain through voice-over narration, is the very definition of lost and adrift in this world. Put another way: this is a very meek and wimpy guy who really doesn’t seem to care that there are people who seem to be taking advantage of him. Namely his boss who relishes in being as much of an obnoxious witch to him as possible, his so-called “best friend” who is seeing our hero’s girlfriend behind his back, and the girlfriend in question who besides the cheating also takes every moment she can to berate our hero and make him feel as meaningless as possible. As a result of these daily abuses as well as just seeing his existence in this world as pointless, we see that our hero has made the choice to immerse himself in both depression and medication with the hope in mind of just limping his way through each day. Things soon take a turn however when, in the midst of a seemingly run of the mill odyssey to his friendly neighborhood local drug store, our intrepid hero finds himself suddenly targeted by a assassin and just as quickly saved by a mysterious woman by the name of Fox. Thus we soon see that our hero is told that his dear ol’ dad, who he never knew, was not only a member of the aforementioned assassin group who died recently, but that he also is in possession of the same skills that his father and the other assassins possess. Finally realizing his purpose in life, Wesley decides to seize this opportunity being presented to him and take up training with Fox, her associates Gunsmith, Butcher, and Repairman, and their enigmatic leader Sloan as well. However it isn’t long before Wesley is given the chance to avenge his father courtesy of being assigned to dispatch the man who offed him only to *surprise surprise* discover that all might not be as it seems…..

Now behind the camera, it should be noted that this slice of cinema does a brilliant job of threading its distinct narrative into incredibly stylistic work from the editing department. Work that includes no more and no less than wonderfully over the top amounts of slo-mo, camera shots that literally feel like they were all filmed on speed, sequences that are shown in reverse, the infamous bullet-shots that The Matrix made noteworthy, and of course an outright smorgasbord of CG distinct angles as this slice of cinema’s camera makes its way around quite a few potentially dangerous places. Of course, it should come as no surprise by the same token to learn that the work from the various visual effects departments are also quite wonderful as we get everything from incredible stunts in cars, a jaw-dropping sequence aboard a moving train, and of course more than one visceral and quite riveting gun battle sequence. Yet even though each and every single one of these action beats are lavishly done, we also see that film helmer Timur Bekmambetov does an absolutely outstanding job at ensuring that each and every one is as riveting and as novel as he possibly can make it. As a result, we see that from two cars flipping over each other during one of our hero’s earliest assassination missions all the way to the moments of bullet bending insanity, this slice of cinema is careful enough to make sure that whilst yes what is going on is fairly outlandish, but there is also a surprising degree of believability to be found therein as well. I also really dug the heck out of the various training montages in this slice of cinema for how distinct and yet how incredibly well done the choreography of each manages to be. Suffice it to say that yes this slice of cinema is one that veers between being fairly odd and edge of your seat riveting with skill, but it would be nowhere near as successful at making that transition if it wasn’t for the skilled craftsmanship behind the camera being placed so proudly for us as movie viewers to witness for ourselves.

Of course, the other big component that most assuredly plays a part in the aforementioned accomplishment undoubtedly has to go to the efforts by this slice of cinema’s talented and game cast in bringing both their respective characters and the seemingly Monster Energy Drink-fueled insanity of the world of this slice of cinema so vividly to life. This starts with James McAvoy in the lead role of Wesley and I must admit to you dear reader: with how meek and mild-mannered he is, this is one actor who really did at first blush seem like a fairly eyebrow-raising option for a visceral and action-heavy part such as this one. Yet somehow, McAvoy shows that not only is he as creative of an actor as any in the business today, but there might just be a wee bit of Russell Crowe in that wiry frame of his as McAvoy manages to showcase a truly astonishing blend of muscle, tenacity, and ferocity in equal measure. Suffice it to say it’s a truly winning performance from an actor who no matter the material has shown he can be counted on to give no less than 110%. Meanwhile, in the role of Fox we have a perfectly cast Angelina Jolie who actually does a great job at crafting a riveting and three dimensional to say nothing of seriously kick butt action heroine out of a character that in a lot of other similar action slices of cinema would sadly be seen as no more and no less than the highly clichéd femme fatale archetype. We also see that as the enigmatic boss Sloan that screen icon Morgan Freeman gets a chance to not only engage in his typical pastime of delivering dialogue in that iconic Morgan Freeman manner, but also get the terrific opportunity to play a character that is a few shades slimier than a lot of the other characters he has played in his career. As for the rest of the cast they all from Common and Thomas Kretschmann to screen veteran Terence Stamp all do a wonderful job at giving their respective parts both a down to Earth quality as well as a wonderful jolt of energy to match the delightfully manic almost live action cartoon-esque quality possessed by the rest of this slice of cinema.

All in all and at the end of the day, Wanted is thankfully able to provide the action movie lover with something that is not only novel, but also riveting, visceral, and infinitely more engaging than the vast majority of the run of the mill action slices of cinema that are both released and which are utilized by viewers less as a pleasure and more as a way to help them sleep better at night thanks to their action beats that seem like they’re simply on a repeating loop and special effects work that consistently looks like something viewers have seen before in a much better slice of cinema. Rather, this is a slice of cinema that is not one that possess a social, moral, or political agenda of any sort and instead just enjoys being exactly the kind of film that you think it is. A factor that is perhaps one of the key reasons why this slice of cinema works on the level that it ultimately turns out to be. No this slice of cinema is most assuredly not going to be seen by the majority of the movie going public, but for what it’s worth the 2008 slice of cinema that is Wanted nevertheless is able to give action movie lovers a riveting narrative with a wonderful little wrinkle thrown in for good measure, top-flight action beats, jaw-dropping stunt and effects work, and fairly good performances from a game cast in front of the camera. No this slice of cinema is not one to possess a lead character who, in the vein of Rambo or Chuck Norris, is set on gaining entry into the Action Movie Hero Hall of Fame and no this slice of cinema is not as gritty as Collateral from 2004 or as graceful as the action seen in Face/Off from 1997 respectively. At the same time however, Wanted is able to do a wonderful job of taking quite a bit of what it was that made those, and several other incredibly well-done action slices of cinema, function as potently and wonderfully as they did. Suffice it to say this is one slice of cinema that is able to conjure up a distinct method to its madness. One that not only breaks the previously held-boundaries for this genre of cinema, but that most assuredly will leave action cinema aficionados most certainly wanting to see more slices of cinema in a similar vein as this one. On a scale of 1-5 I give Wanted “08” a solid 3.5 out of 5.