Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Starring: James McAvoy, Terence Stamp, Thomas Kretschmann, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman
UK Release date: 25 June 2008
Certificate: 18 (108 mins)
While James McAvoy may have been good in the Channel 4 show Shameless, few could have guessed that in the space of three years he would have leapt from the small screen to staring alongside Angelina Jolie in a big-budget Hollywood superfilm. But this is exactly what has happened to the Scottish actor.
In Wanted, McAvoy plays Wesley Gibson, a man who hates his boss, has a whiney girlfriend who is sleeping with his best friend, and suffers panic attacks on an almost daily basis. Something has to change, and it does when he meets a mysterious beauty (Jolie), a member of a group of assassins who call themselves the Fraternity. She, along with her boss, Sloan (Morgan Freeman), informs Wesley that he is born to be one of them, an elite fighter, who murders people for the greater good, “Kill one, save thousands.” With these words Wesley’s training begins. And his first mission is to kill the rogue assassin who killed his father.
What follows is a blood bath of mayhem as Wesley learns to kill and discovers that the Fraternity is not all that it seems – and that nothing will make your girlfriend more jealous than an impromptu kiss from Angelina Jolie!
While Wanted could easily have fallen into the unappealing genre of testosterone-fuelled blockbuster rubbish, Timur Bekmambetov saves it from this fate by adding over-the-top style to proceedings. Slow motion bullets rippling the air and overly loud, pounding heartbeats may not be original, but in Wanted they simply add to the unapologetic dottiness of this film.
It is also elevated by the black humour used throughout. A deadly assassin chasing his prey in a van decorated with cute kittens, Wesley apologizing to police as his car goes flying over their heads and people cowering from bullets behind supermarket signs ‘Last Chance’ and ‘Don’t Miss’ may not be subtle but add some light relief to the intensity and gore.
But without a doubt the thing that really sets Wanted apart is the casting. Sticking to her trade mark character, Jolie, plays her role of tough and sexy heroine, who goes by the name Fox (what else?!) with the type of smouldering attitude cinemagoers have come to expect from her. Some may find it annoying that however much battering she goes through, her hair and make up stay perfect, but come on, what does one expect from Ms Jolie?
Freeman is also cast to perfection in his usual role as the almost God-like boss, Sloan, who tells the Fraternity who they must kill. But without a doubt, it is McAvoy who truly shines as everyman Wesley. He may not have played an action hero before but his understated charisma makes the character (almost) believable and also very likeable. Without him in the lead, the film would lose some of the heart that sets it apart from other shoot-'em-up films.
So while Wanted will never win any prizes for its thought-provoking dialogue or subtle cinematography, the director and cast have made a hugely enjoyable, rip-roaring treat for the eye that will have you on the edge on the seat from beginning to end. Leave your brain at home and go buy a ticket.