We’ve all been there. You’re in the middle of an interview for a new career when you’re asked: ‘Why are you here?’ And you freeze, not really knowing any answer other than: ‘Because I want to leave my dead-end, soul-destroying job.’ Seeing that you’re lost for words, the interviewer then ties your hands behind your back and proceeds to beat your face to a pulp. Wait, what?
"Car chases, gun fights and train wrecks, this film has a no-holds-barred approach to killing that has no time for stealth."
This is the universe that James McAvoy’s over-stressed Wesley Gibson finds himself in after leaving behind an apathetic existence where his girlfriend is cheating on him with his best friend. Everything changes when Angelina Jolie’s alluring Fox offers him an alternative; a life where he’s a member of an age-old fraternity of assassins, and where he can magically ‘bend’ the trajectory of bullets.
It’s a new life baptised in blood and the gory induction is only the start. Gibson goes from punching numbers to avenging the murder of the father he never knew by joining The Fraternity and preparing to kill renegade assassin Cross (played by a rugged Thomas Kretschmann). Cue training montage.
Despite a wandering US accent, McAvoy proves himself to be the right choice for the role. He’s an everyman who defies first appearances, playing the insecure then cocky Gibson unapologetically.
For the purposes of Gibson’s training, Morgan Freeman reprises his role as God. Or at least comes close (once again) as the righteous Sloan, leader of The Fraternity. You soon discover that assassins aren’t a particularly friendly crew (go figure) as the naive Gibson gets bloodily beaten from beginning to end. And as the arcane bunch have a way of swiftly healing themselves, the violence becomes a bit slap-happy. At times it seems like they view stabbing someone in the gut the same way others would view a pillow fight.
The Fraternity might work for the good of the many (“Kill one, save a thousand,” as Sloan intones), but on their way to offing this ‘one’ target, they don’t half make a mess. Car chases, gun fights and train wrecks, this film has a no-holds-barred approach to killing that has no time for stealth.
You’d think all this violence would knock some sense into Gibson but he accepts his role as assassin so readily that you can't help asking why? What is Gibson’s motivation, other than avenging the murder of his unknown father? Especially when he discovers how The Fraternity select their targets (a method about as plausible as receiving a hit list from tea leaves). Gibson moves too quickly from apathy to assassin, no matter how much pain was involved in getting there.
To be truly enjoyed, Wanted is a film you can’t over think. Night Watch Director, Timur Bekmambetov, has made his US debut fraught with his own bonkers vision. Based loosely on Mark Miller’s graphic novels, this is a unique and darkly humorous take on the Wanted universe; from the droll thoughts of McAvoy’s anti-hero to a finale that resembles the rat-infested ending of Roald Dahl’s The Witches. On crack.
Still, if you can give yourself up to the Miller/Bekmambetov world and forget the value of human life for a few hours, then Wanted becomes a visual treat. It’s blood-red, fast and underpinned with a good dose of dark wit. There are flashes of The Matrix and Fight Club here and while it doesn’t come close to their level, it can hold its own, knives at the ready.