Curving bullets. A man jumps from one skyscraper to another. Someone flips a car and fires through the open sunroof. The wings are shot off buzzing flies. A car jumps into a moving train. What appears to be a paraffin-qua-donut-glaze bath speeds the healing of broken bones and knife-sliced skin. Rats explode. A passenger-train car careens off a mountain-pass bridge toward a frighteningly deep ravine. Bullets cut through the air like multi-stage rockets.
Just when you think Russian Night Watch director Timur Bekmambetov has pulled every insane visual treat out of his bottomless bag of action-movie tricks, a sprinting gunman fires point blank into another man’s eye socket. And then that gunman sticks the barrel through the gaping wound and continues running, using the lifeless body as a human shield, continuing on his way through the film’s tenth or (9,000th) dizzying firefight.
Underneath all of Wanted’s CGI effects and preposterous ideas and eroticized images of Angelina Jolie woman-handling weapons, though, is an old-fashioned storyline that prevents the movie from being mere cinematic methamphetamine.
And it’s funnier than a bulldog in a nun’s habit to boot. In the opening minute a title card pops up to recount that old yarn about a group of weavers who, 1,000 years ago or so, started a fraternity of assassins. Flash-forward to the present, where Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is a spineless cubicle slave working in some torturously dead-end Chicago office. A Prozac Nation victim, Wesley pops a pill anytime he feels a panic attack blossoming, which happens pretty much whenever Wesley can’t pass robotically through life. Then he meets Fox (Angelina Jolie), a descendant of that weaver-assassin clan.
A threadbare setup is successfully milked for 110 minutes, but the tight focus makes it such a delight. Wanted’s screenwriters very, very loosely based this story on Mark Millar and J.G. Jones’ comic book of the same name, keeping only its central character (Wesley), assassin fraternity, absolutely amoral violence, and gallows humor. The story they’ve concocted, though, is not only comic-book elemental but practically aboriginal.
Wanted refreshingly doesn’t try to inflate its story into a war over the fate of the world or all of humankind or some other pseudo-humanist nonsense. Instead it fires off some 100,000 bullets over more familiar human impulses — avarice, selfishness, and vanity.
— Bret McCabe