Sunday, June 29, 2008

WANTED

Wanted is the ultimate fan boy fantasy come true. Not in the way it satisfies a geeky thirst like the LOTR Trilogy, a Hellboy sequel, some Xena fan fiction, or a book signing with Bruce Campbell, no, but in the way the screen action duplicates a kick-ass situation the pasty pudgies have always daydreamed about. James McAvoy's dud-to-stud character, Wesley Gibson, is reassured many times that "He's the man!". Uh-huh. Toss in taking a naked steam bath next to Lara Croft, then tongue-kissing her in front of your shady ex-girlfriend, and you've got hot box office property for lonely white males between the ages of 18-40 (45... erm, 60?).

Too bad, then, that Wanted is a waste. Russian director Timur Bemambetov (Night Watch, Day Watch, etc.) gets his first American studio project in Wanted, and to his credit, he goes all out for it. There are enough over-the-top visual gags front loaded in the film's first quarter to keep your eyes excited, but, like last year's Shoot 'Em Up, the buzz fades once an attempt at serious storytelling settles in.

The touchstone for this new style of XBox action flick was 2006's underrated Crank. (Strangely enough, it bombed in theaters, but generated enough of a cult following on DVD to produce a sequel this fall.) Crank's writing & directing partners, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, understood the b-movie tactic of rolling out a basic premise and letting anything-goes action and acting grip the wheel for the remaining 90 minutes.

Crank
was the first film I saw that successfully drew from the energy of video game culture and then channeled it into cinema. It's an artful, short attention span download of a time that would've been huge had it not been branded with an R rating. (A rating it deserved, by the way. Any softening of it to get a coveted PG-13 would've missed the point.)

Although James McAvoy is enjoyable to watch doing his best imitation of Clive Owen genre transitioning, the rest of the cast are frozen in a film where "be animated" should be shouted on set before the clap of every slate. Angelina Jolie needed to be chewing-up scenery as Fox the sexy assassin, yet she stilts around like the buttoned-up Mrs. Smith. And Morgan Freeman makes you long for the roles where he played the voice of reason to knee-jerk violence instead of a bad-ass mofo with a thousand yard stare. Indeed, when Freeman actually utters the words "kill this motherfu*ker!" you do a little hiccup in your seat. It's like hearing your mom cuss for the first time.

But Wanted's biggest blunder is its whiny take-this-job-and-shove-it subplot. It's a bit Office Space, and a megabyte of Fight Club-y white male malaise. Wesley's boss is a bitch, his best friend is banging his girlfriend, and he's on prescription downers. His dad - if the S.O.B. didn't leave him and his mom after Wesley was born - probably wonders how he fathered "the most irrelevant person on Earth." But by becoming an assassin, Wesley finally learns "who he is", and in the film's final bookend rewind CGI spasm he reminds us of his eye opening transformation from dud-to-stud, and says, "What have you ever done???" I don't know man. In comparison, probably not that much. But your movie just kinda sucked pretty hard, so I'll stick with the day job.

10 comments:

Piper said...

Okay,

So you just sold me on Crank in a review for Wanted. Get that.

Still want to see Wanted only because I do love Jolie so. But McAvoy might just kill it for me.

Fox said...

Oddly enough, I think this was the first time I've seen a McAvoy movie. I can't ever recall seeing something he was in. I know a lot of my female friends talk about how dreamy he is, though.

Let me know what you think about Crank. I don't think I've ever talked about it with anyone. I've tried pushing on the wife but she usually just nods and watches something else... sigh :(

I'm also curious to hear your thoughts on Wanted... especially about Jolie since you are a fan.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Morgan Freeman started out playing scary guys like his mean-ass pimp in Street Smart, his first Oscar nomination. Then he got Driving Miss Daisy and Glory and ever since then he's been Mr. Nice Guy on the screen - until now apparently.

And I'd say you've done a lot more than that stupid assassin. After all, you're Nicole Kidman's Svengali. I mean, how many people can claim that?

Piper said...

Oh Mr. Lapper,

How quickly we forget Freeman's BRILLIANT (did I overstate that) turn as the crazy general with the bushy eyebrows in the bug up your butt Stephen King/Lawrence Kasdan nightmare of a movie.

I too have never seen another McAvoy movie. And since I have yet to see Wanted, I have never seen him in a movie. But the ladies sure do find him dreamy.

Fox said...

Does Freeman's mean-ass pimp in Street Smart at least have a heart of gold???

And to add more to the Fox/Jolie/Kidman Wiki-weirdness - and thus further confusing the readers of this blog - Mr. Freeman will be playing a Mr. Fox in the new Batman movie. It's a good year to be orange and sly.

I hope Nicole Kidman feels like Googling herself today...

Jonathan Lapper said...

Piper, my fellow guest blogger, good to talk with you about things not concerning when we should schedule our posts to go up on Film Experience.

I didn't forget "Dreamcatcher" (well, technically, it didn't come to mind again until you said it so maybe sorta kinda) I was just saying that with odd exceptions here and there, Freeman is always the nice guy which is so odd to me because when I saw him in "Street Smart" (not a very good movie outside of his scenes) I figured he was going to play the scary bastard role for a long time coming.

And no, Fox, he doesn't have a heart of gold in the movie.

Luke Harrington said...

" "What have you ever done???" I don't know man. In comparison, probably not that much. But your movie just kinda sucked pretty hard, so I'll stick with the day job."

Best...line...ever. This movie was nothing but a load of overblown set pieces that could have been entertaining...were they not so obsessed with their own importance. ("You recruited a son...to kill his own father!!!!"...classic.)

howdy dowdy said...

I just rewatched Wanted, the correct line is "What have you done lately ?"
As cheesy as the dud to stud plot line is you can't escape from whatever buttons it pushes in you, especially not by misquoting it and denying its effect.
Overall many recent movies do indeed exploit the nerd white male audience's life insatisfaction, so it's more a matter of noting what's been done right and what's been done wrong, than about rejecting the genre in general.
OK it's there, it appeals to a large bracket of audience, now who does it right ?
Spiderman 1 to 3 come to mind as another huge attempt but the recent movies are plenty. Transformers, etc.
"Wanted" strikes me as a half assed attempt that did some things right although having failed annoyingly at other things. Whether you focus on the half filled glass or on the half empty one is as always a matter of personal preference.

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