With his first English-language movie, director Timur Bekmamabatov thankfully hasn’t let go of fun with fonts. ATM readouts, exploding keyboards, tarty tattoos, and even engraved bullets, punctuate the action in Wanted. His trademark textual twists and turns abound — if you have seen the young Russian autuer’s first two films (both blockbusters abroad: Night Watch and Day Watch), then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
In those Russian movies, set in the world of vampires, the captioning became almost like another character -- often dancing, diving and dashing about as the people in the movie spoke their lines. Sometimes, the captions were made of blood, or disappeared like vapor in whisperers. Now, though we can hear everything in English, we can also read along in merry mad-lib fashion.
James McAvoy, best-known for his roles in serious dramas, plays Wesley, a downtrodden paper-pusher whose lackluster life consists of being completely disrespected by his smarmy best friend, getting the shaft from his unfaithful girlfriend, and being belittled by his petty, piggy boss. At this point, Wanted looks and feels sort of like a night of passion between Office Space and Fight Club. But wait: It gets even cooler (think: American Psycho meets The Matrix in a dark alley) when Angelina Jolie shows up as uber bad girl Fox in a zippy hotrod and toting loaded pistols on a body that's drop-dead and ready for action of all kinds.
It turns out that Fox has come into Wesley's workaday life because he's the unwitting heir to his deceased-dad's powerful position in a secret society of assassins called The Fraternity. This band of cold, calculating killers is led, quite literally, by the Loom of Fate. It’s a story as old as time itself: The Three Fates from Greek mythology are said to have woven, sewn and finally, cut the threads of mortal lives -- and now the magical Loom is overseen by Sloan, a mysterious mastermind played by Morgan Freeman with his usual aplomb. Nonstop chase and combat, nicely nuanced with actual story and genuine character development, ensues.
Pin-thin Jolie’s skeletal yet wiry physique is a distraction at times, and it's overly obvious there's a conscious counter to that when we see Fox eating and snacking in several scenes, but this is definitely her best acting work in years. As a completely fanciful femme born from the world of comics, she sells the bill of goods and she’s damn good. McAvoy is her match every step of the way (he's even convincing when he shouts at her: "Stay away from me! Don't come near me!" Because, I mean, really… what man alive would say that to a fox like Fox?).
Although Wanted isn't a horror movie, it's definitely in our wheelhouse due to Bekmambatov's vampire DNA; plus, there are some rather gruesome sequences involving the use of corpses for target practice, and blood a-plenty spaying from the wounds of those marked for death by The Fraternity. Wanted is a lot like Night Watch (personally, I didn't much care for Day Watch due to its frequent forays into silly, goofy humor) in that it's got a good balance between eye-candy and brain food.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson