dvd review: WANTED

For the record, just so there is no misunderstanding whatsoever, I don’t have a problem with over-the-top action films that deliver excessive violence while shortchanging the audience on anything that even resembles intelligence. In fact, I really like those movies, as evidenced by my fondness for the first Transporter, Shoot ‘Em Up and a whole host of other flicks that go heavy with the action, but exceptionally light on the brains. But even I have my limits, and have found myself throwing my hands up in frustration when something is simply too stupid. Yes, I know, these movies are supposed to be fun. But sometimes these movies aren’t fun. Sometimes they are painful experiences that fail to entertain, while managing to infuriate and rob you of the precious moments you spent watching this insipid bullshit. And that’s what Wanted is.

Based on the comic book by Mark Millar and JG Jones, Wanted stars James McAvoy as Wesley Gibson, a whining office worker whose life is a pathetic waste, which he describes in annoying narration that sounds like he’s watched Fight Club one too many times. While incessantly complaining about his soul-sucking job, his unfaithful girlfriend who’s screwing his best friend, and generally annoying the shit out of the audience, Wesley crosses paths with Fox (Angelina Jolie), a deadly assassin that works with a cadre of über killers known as the Fraternity. Fox tells Wesley that his father was a member of the Fraternity, and that a former member of the elite death squad named Cross (Thomas Kretschmann) has come to kill him. Cross seemingly makes his move to kill Wesley, leading to what will be one of many action sequences that are as over-the-top as they are devoid of logic. After a protracted chase, Fox takes Wesley to meet Sloan (Morgan Freeman), the leader of the Fraternity, who lets loose with inane, poorly written dialog that attempts to explain this sad excuse for a story. It seems that Cross killed Wesley’s father, for reasons that undoubtedly made sense to the writers of this crap, and now he wants to kill Wesley because…well…because. Did I mention that Wesley never knew his father? That part is important.

Convinced that his life is in danger—not from Cross so much as a mundane, unfulfilling existence—Wesley begins training to become a member of the Fraternity. He is beaten and stabbed to the point of near death, but thanks to a tub full of magical wax (?) he is able to heal in no time flat. He learns all sorts of ways to harness his superhuman killing abilities, and even learns how to fire a gun so that the bullets curve. All of this is an excuse to roll out the requisite training sequence, and eventually a showdown with Cross. But wait…I forgot to mention the Loom of Fate, the magical loom that decides who the Fraternity will assassinate. Seriously. And it is the Loom of Fate that leads Wesley down a path where he will make some discoveries that further push Wanted deeper and deeper into the realm of absolute brainless crapola.

Calling Wanted one of the worst films of all time would be a bit of an exaggeration; but it certainly is the worst movie since the abysmal Southland Tales, which itself is one of the worst films of all time. And while Wanted never reaches the depths of ineptly bad filmmaking achieved by Southland Tales, it diligently tries, which makes the whole thing all the more pathetic. Films of this nature that openly embrace their own absurdity only do so when everything is effortless. That’s what makes Shoot ‘Em Up work, the effortlessness by which it achieves its ridiculous stupidity. But by contrast, Wanted is working overtime to manufacture what seemed so organic about Shoot ‘Em Up and Transporter. The result is a clumsy film that fails to blend its impressive action and effects sequences with a script that is terrible. Clearly this film wants to be something meaningful and thought-provoking, perhaps on par with The Matrix. Unfortunately, this is like a sack of rotten potatoes allowed to sit around too long, becoming more and more putrid as time passes.

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov, whose hit Russian vampire flicks Night Watch and Day Watch established him as special effects visionary, Wanted is a style-over-substance exercise in effects and stunt driven storytelling. Bekmambetov certainly has a visual style that runs rampant through the film, and the action and effects sequences are impressive enough to almost warrant a marginal recommendation. But “almost” is the operative word, because as fun as the action and effects may be, they don’t make up for a script that is, for lack of a better term, a total piece of shit.

Primarily written by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, Wanted is that special kind of movie that wants to be a bit of dumb fun, and succeeds tremendously on at least one of those measures in that it is dumb. Really dumb. I mean this script is like a lobotomized version of Transporter 2 (and that’s saying a lot, because Transporter 2 was monumentally moronic). Brandt and Haas (as well as other writer Chris Morgan) have crafted a script that is as poorly conceived as it is terribly written. The story is lame, the dialog is excruciatingly bad, and the character of Wesley Gibson is so phenomenally annoying that you can’t help but hope he catches one of those stray curving bullets. McAvoy’s performance consists of little more than him either screaming or whining—both with equal measures of hysteria—the brain-rotting drivel that passes for dialog in this unpleasant bit of cinema.

If it were not for the terrible script, which in turn results in unintentionally laughable performances by the entire cast, then it might be possible to recommend Wanted on the basis of the action sequences. But honestly, this movie is so bad when the action slows down for the sake of story that it is not worthy of watching.

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