Wanted is the ultimate vacation movie, meaning that first your brain takes a vacation, followed by the laws of physics. Finally everything resembling logic just sort of buggers off and joins them on holiday. It’s bloody, sexy, brutish, noisy fun.
Yeah, that’s right. I said fun. As pleasures go, this one is guiltier than O.J.
The story being told may be wholly undeserving of the talent involved, but it’s necessary to give the two-dimensional characters even the illusion of substance. With a cast of the third-rate nobodies and television has-beens typical for material of this caliber, Wanted would go straight to video.
Wesley (James McAvoy) is a 24-year-old wage-slave accountant and, in plain English, his life sucks. His boss is a tyrant, his girl cheats on him and his best friend is the one she cheats with. He’s one dead dog and a stolen truck away from country-western immortality. While he is at the pharmacy to pick up the meds to treat his panic attacks, a mysterious woman named Fox (Angelina Jolie) tells him, oh by the way, your late father was a trained assassin for a secret Fraternity of killers and that man over there (Thomas Kretschmann) is here to kill you. Before Wesley can say, “Get away from me you crazy b…,” a couple of gun fights and a car chase rather effectively prove her point.
Our hero winds up back up at the Fraternity headquarters, where a man named Sloan (Morgan Freeman) explains that they are a thousand-year-old organization governed by a mystical “Loom of Fate,” which reveals the names of people who are about to do Very Bad Things. The Fraternity steps in and does Very Bad Things to those people first. Wesley’s panic attacks are actually a product of superhuman reflexes he inherited from his father and, as his legacy, he is entitled to join them.
Can you let me off at the next corner, please?
To do so, however, he has to complete a training regimen that seems designed to make Navy SEALs cry for their mommies. Wesley must really be a superhuman assassin because the ordeal would kill the average 24-year-old wage-slave accountant before lunch on the first day. A few trips to the infirmary later (quite a few, actually), and Wesley is ready to join Fox on her missions and, he hopes, begin hunting the man who killed his father.
This film was obviously made by people who thought that anything less than an R rating was an insult to their ancestors. Based on a graphic novel, Wanted cheerfully appeals to a laundry list of our baser instincts. You get to see physically ludicrous, CGI-enhanced stunts. You get to follow bullets through the brains of their victims. You get to see a train-wreck where the supposed good guys are coolly cavalier about collateral carnage. You get to see Angelina Jolie’s bare ass (it may be her body double’s bare ass, but at least it’s somebody’s). Almost everything here seems calculated to reach deep into the part of our brains still too young to see an R-rated movie.
And if the higher functions of your brain need to take a vacation to enjoy this movie, the part of your mind that manufactures moral qualms should be a coma. In the world on the screen, killing people for your own reasons or on the orders of others is way cooler than being a 24-year-old wage-slave accountant. You have to hand it to the writers and filmmakers: they never back away from this point of view. To its final frame, Wanted remains unapologetic for turning its hero into an unrepentant sociopath. If you can keep your ethical gag reflex in check, Wanted is a perfect movie for grown-ups who want to let the anti-social teen-aged delinquent inside them out to play for a couple of hours.
Just keep it away from any actual anti-social teen delinquents, however. Far, far away.