What do you get when you combine the sultriest pair of hips and lips in Hollywood, seemingly tethered together only by body art; blood splatters that course with viscous glee; enough cold, hard steel to resurrect Heston; bullets that curve; joyous holes in the head; and a hot, slathering mess of McAvoy? You get Wanted, a movie you want to take behind the middle school and impregnate. With twins.
Watching Wanted, it’s obvious where screenwriters Michael Brandt and Derek Haas got their inspiration: 1999. Inarguably, the three best films of the Clinton years were made in that year, and that cinematic trinity flows through Wanted like a purple midget eating monster at a Prince concert at the turn of the millennium. It has that Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta anti-cubicle fuck you vibe of Office Space, the struggle for individuality spirit and light-hearted brutality of Fight Club, and a brand of action-movie Waschowskism that hasn’t felt this fresh since The Matrix, even if director Timur Bekmambetov owes a huge debt to that movie. Throw in a dash of last year’s Ratatouille (you’ll understand), and you have the symphonic awesomeness of Wanted, an orgy of bullets, blood, and toned flesh that will break open your anal capillaries like a Crisco-free Saturday night up on Brokeback.
Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is an asshole, a nobody, an insignificant peon in the corporate world charged with manufacturing bullshit reports while his mouth-breathing, jelly-donut eating tub of a boss stands over him popping a stapler in his ear. Wesley is miserable, living out the same-sameness of his life knowing that his best friend is boning his girlfriend on top of his cheap IKEA furniture during lunch breaks. But Wesley persists with a nancied approach to his existence, staving off the occasional panic attack with cheap generic pharmaceuticals subsidized by his cubicle overlords. Then on a day he actually manages to get out of the drug store without buying his BFF condoms to thrust into his girlfriend, he’s approached by Fox (Angelina Jolie) and told that his father, the second best assassin in the world, was just killed by the best, who’s about to put Wesley into the cold, cold ground. Cut to: One of the most inspired action sequences in years, a car-chase shootout that has Wesley with his hands on the steering wheel and his face in a crotch-full of Jolie as she’s Tawney Kitaening a sports car while simultaneously unleashing a shock-and-awe spray of bullets toward her target.
In other words, it was just the sort of relaxing evening that Wesley needed to break loose from his corporate shackles and wake up the next morning to jackhammer a series of go fuck yourselves into the temples of his friends and colleagues at the ole’ land of partitions and expense reports.
Wesley is thereafter invited by Sloan (Morgan Freeman), the head of The Fraternity — a tight-knit group of super-killer assassins — to come into the fold with the intent of being trained to ultimately take out his father’s killer. The Fraternity’s mission statement, if you will, is simply to assassinate bad motherfuckers with the hope that one death today saves a thousand lives down the line. Their targets are coughed up by The Loom of Fate, an automatied loom that spits up binary code containing the names of their targets. Implicitly, there are three rules of the Fraternity: 1) Never question (The Loom of) Fate; 2) Never question (The Loom of) Fate; and most importantly, 3) Never question (The Loom of) Fate. Likewise, never question the logic of Wanted, because if you pause long enough to consider it, the narrative would unspool like a runaway roll of Charmin. Fortunately, the breathtaking action — bullets, fists, and knives (oh my!) — never lets up long enough to allow you to question the preposterousness, and by the time you’ve left the theater holding a folder over your cinematic erection, you don’t give a shit that you’ve been duped by a machine-gun blasted series of scenes that are as unrelentingly preposterous as they are unrelentingly, insanely bad ass. Indeed, once the origins story and the training sequence is over, the narrative of Wanted feels as though it’s about to level out and find a formulaic groove, but then — in a movie you never expect it from — it wallops you with a twist that turns the entire movie on its head, adding more than enough adrenaline to rock out with your cock out / jam out with your clam out past the finish line.
I’ve always been relatively indifferent to Angelina Jolie, but I’ll concede that few do tough-sexy as well as she does, and in Wanted, she finally reaches her fullest tough-sexy potential — she waves around a gun in ways that would make Freud weep with vagina envy. Without giving too much away, Morgan Freeman finally gets a role like buttered ass that he can sink his teeth into — it’s been so long since he’s played anything but wise and grizzled moral center that you almost forget that it’s actually possible to feature Freeman in a movie in which he doesn’t also narrate. He also delivers the best line in the entire film, a crowd-pleasing turn of phrase we’ve been waiting decades for him to deliver — if you don’t pump your fist, just a little, you’re dead inside. But the show belongs to James McAvoy: A blood-soaked, pint-size, white-collar Statham who somehow manages to fly through the breakneck Wanted without snapping his spine. He’s a total nerds-of-steel kind of action hero: Bale’s steaminess, Bourne’s fluidity, a hint of the Sam Rockwellian wiseacre, and the tiniest dab of that Nick Frost’s what-the-hell-am-I doing-in-an action-movie attitude.
The true surprise, however, is Timur Bekmambetov; minutes into Wanted, I kept wracking my brain to remember who the director was, because obviously a man with this much stylistic flair, this much visual creativity, and this much total disregard for the laws of physics would surely be a name familiar to me and everyone else. It wasn’t until I got home and iMDB’d the Russian-Kazakh Bekmambetov before I started punching myself in the nose for missing both Night Watch and the lesser Day Watch. The guy is balls-to-the-ceiling talented, a filmmaker who can not only put together a jaw-dropping action sequence, but a man who can give you a Looney Tunes action movie without making it feel like a Looney Tunes action movie. Wanted is also a comic-book movie, but you’d never fucking know it.
Indeed, it’s been a long two months since Iron Man, but Wanted is finally a film that can make you forget about Marvel Studios for a while and move on with your cinematic life, comfortable in knowing that your 2008 summer love affair with action movies doesn’t have to be monogamous. So go ahead, folks: Spread that seed. After all, Iron Man is a movie you can make love to, but Wanted is a movie you’re gonna wanna fuck, with a cock ring, on top of a fast-moving train.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. This is the last review he’ll ever write from Ithaca, NY. So long, Regal Ithaca Mall Stadium 14. You’ve been good to me, but now it’s time to move on. You may email Dustin, or leave a comment below.
Wanted / Dustin Rowles
Film | August 27, 2008 | Comments ()