What Wanted lacks in terms of originality, it more than makes up for with style and excitement. Based on the comic book series created by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones, the ultraviolent action thriller seamlessly channels the likes of John Woo and the Wachowski brothers. But if jaw-dropping stunts, gravity-defying car chases and double-barrel shoot-'em-ups don't do it for you, then the prospect of seeing Angelina Jolie flaunt her alluring sexuality probably will.
Twenty-five-year-old Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is miserable, and for good reason. He hates his job, his girlfriend is sleeping with his best friend and his sadistic boss won't get off his back. But all that changes when a gun-toting vixen (Angelina Jolie) saves his life and introduces him to the Fraternity-a secret society of assassins of which his legendary father was a member. Now it's Wesley's turn to be a natural born killer, but he must first survive a grueling training process that will make him regret the day he was born.
For better or worse, Wanted is derivative of so many movies, you practically need a scorecard to check them off. A son who is destined to be like his father, check (Star Wars); a cube-dwelling drone who is oblivious to his abilities, check (The Matrix); a blood-soaked initiation process, check (Fight Club); over-the-top gunfights, check (Shoot 'Em Up); Morgan Freeman in, well, the authoritative Morgan Freeman role, check (Batman Begins, Lucky Number Slevin).
But just when I lost hope that screenwriters Michael Brandt, Derek Haas and Chris Morgan might find a way to give Wanted an identity of its own, along came a last-act plot twist that really kicked the movie into high gear. And it's hard not to be blown away by the hyperkinetic direction of Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch, Day Watch). There's no question that the Russian filmmaker is using every opportunity to show off with his American debut, but the resulting film is so relentlessly entertaining that it delivers the goods.
Up to this point, Scottish actor James McAvoy has had an impressive resume that includes The Last King of Scotland and Atonement. It's a foregone conclusion that Wanted is his most demanding role yet, and it's not because of the physical training that he had to go through to play a near-superhuman assassin. He also had to hold his own (which he does quite nicely) against Angelina Jolie, who seamlessly slips back into her sexy Mr. and Mrs. Smith mode following her critically-acclaimed performance in A Mighty Heart.
Wanted doesn't have an original bone in its adrenaline-fueled body, and it spends a little too much time focusing on Wesley's brutal initiation process. But as far as summer movies go, it does what it does exceptionally well, and you can't help but be won over by the confidence of its stylish, slick direction. The action can be over the top at times, but that's the beauty of it. And then, of course, there's Angelina Jolie, who isn't too shabby either.
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