June 29, 2008
Firstly, sincerest apologies for the lack of reviews posted recently. It’s almost as if we’ve seen nothing worth reviewing lately… which isn’t entirely true, although the thought of bringing myself to write anything about Mongol threw me into a typing-hand paralysis of blandness. Anyhow, the Summer film season is brightening up and as a crafty companion piece to Indiana’s alien nonsense, childish Russian director Timur Bekmambetov takes on Mark Millar’s graphic novel with style, control and as much depth as Jodie Marsh.
Unlikely action hero James McAvoy kicks off with a whiney, self-pitying monologue about his insignificance as a human, during which you’ll be second-guessing that the movie you’re about to see is a riff on everything from The Matrix to Fight Club. Maybe even Sideways. Thankfully it has its own merits, and though the opening action sequence is a late-90’s cut and paste job, it’s still impressive viewing and a nice hook into a couple of hours of carnage.
It turns out our James (oddly playing the American, Wesley) is the son of one of history’s greatest assassins, and though he looks like a pathetic office clerk he may in fact harbour his father’s perfect reflexes. All it takes is a training montage to transform him into a deadly human weapon, and soon he’s popping caps in asses left, right and centre. His mentors come in all shapes and sizes, Morgan Freeman hamming it up as bossman Sloan, and the obligatory nookie in the form of Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider mode. Even Hustle’s Marc Warren gets to play with McAvoy and the big boys in Hollywood- and he does get to sport his native accent.
The threshold of the ludicrous is firmly set nice and wide in an early car chase, clearly choreographed by a stunt director in the middle of a wet dream.
As such, the utter silliness that follows can be forgiven for the sake of old-fashioned fun, and the action sequences are as laugh-out-loud funny as they are fast and furiously awesome. Bekmambetov adds a gloss of sophistication and class that outshines the capabilities of the Michael Bays and Doug Limans of the movie world, and it’s good to see some of the trademarks that made cult sci-fi hits Nightwatch and Daywatch so charming and entertaining on show in his first American outing. The distinct lack of fuss makes you yearn for the mad Russian to take the 007 reins one day.
Despite a dramatic case of suspended belief by the halfway point, the addition of fate and destiny to the mix might make you scoff. Especially when it involves a loom. Surely there’s a rule in filmmaking- when you’ve got Jolie, Freeman, giant guns and souped-up megacars, there’s really no need for weaving. It also leads us to some soppy, ill-advised character stuff explaining why Fox (that’s Angelina, if you weren’t sure) has such a devotion to the assassin’s code. If Jane Austen had written the screenplay there’s a chance we’d give a shit, but we signed away our sensitive side when we saw a milk float hit 100mph and a man use only his ‘instincts’ to literally bend the laws of physics.
Though Wanted certainly owes its soul to the Wachowski school of kicking butt, there’s a refreshing scent of the original here. McAvoy plays the everyman-turned-superhero far more convincingly than stone-faced Keanu Reeves ever managed, and it’s his charm and humanity that carries the film. We have to believe that any geek like Wesley can become a god among men, and in a weird way they almost pull it off. It looks great, sounds great, and even if you don’t hear it discussed on The Culture Show, you’ll certainly be discussing your favourite special effect over the post-film pint.
4 / 5 weaves missed