Wanted (2008) movie poster

(2008) dir. Timur Bekmambetov
viewed: 06/29/08 at CineArts @ the Empire Theater, SF, CA

From director Timur Bekmambetov, the fine filmmaker who brought us the Russian Sci-Fi/action films Night Watch (2004) and Day Watch (2006), Hollywood slings Wanted onto movie screens across America much like the key image from the film itself,…like curving a bullet’s path by whipping one’s arm.  I gotta say though, the image and silliness of the so much of the action and imagery is a big part of the film’s appeal.  That is if you are of the kind that can be appealed to that way.

It’s been a hellishly dry summer for movies.  I saw the trailer a little while back and thought, “Well, that looks like it could be fun.”

Oddly, though, the film isn’t a lot of fun really.  The story follows James McAvoy who is a nebbishish “loser” who has a job in a cubicle, an overbearing boss (straight out of the casting of a John Waters movie), and a girlfriend and pal, who are playing around on him.  He is miserable and is developing serious neuroses via panic attacks and depression.  His plight could have been more appealing, but he’s also an annoying complainer who also seems to hate the world.

Well, life has a way of changing when Angelina Jolie shows up and starts wanting to hang out.  Suddenly he finds out that he is a natural-born member of a thousand year old society of assassins who get their instruction from a weaving loom.  After a brutal training period in which he is regularly beaten violently, he manages to achieve the form of a superkiller who can speed up his heart so that the whole world slows down for him, making him able to do crazy stunts and bend bullets.

The whole world is rife with cynicism.  These killers kill strangers, unquestioningly.  They may have the sexiness of Angelina Jolie and ability to do things that only actors with green screens and lots of post-production can do, but they are essentially utterly a-moral.  It’s not just that that is essentially how they are supposed to be, it is also how the whole film is.  It lacks warmth and humanity.  But it does have some entertaining, if rather violent action set pieces.

Oddly, it reminded me a bit of Ms. Jolie’s role in Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), in which she also plays an elite assassin, a member of a highly covert and top of the line organization.  Oddly, though, even though that film sort of suggested that neither she nor her beau/hubby Brad Pitt were really “average American” material, and while she was still a ruthless assassin, it didn’t leave you with the sense that the film lacked a soul.

It’s wrapped up in the final comment, in which McAvoy gives the audience a look, “breaking the wall” as it is known, validating his murder spree by suggesting that those of us who are sitting there watching this film are doing very little with our puny little miserable lives.  Is it really better to be a lonely brutal killer than to lead the life of “quiet desperation”?  Kinda scary suggestion, if you ask me.

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