Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday Movie Review: Wanted

Wanted (2008) 7/10
An ancient weaver's guild discovers the mystery of becoming super-powered assassins. Wesley (James MacAvoy), a stifled and anxious white collar drone, discovers his father was a member of this cult, and that he has their powers.

For what it is, Wanted is very enjoyable. It turns out it's damn hard to make brainless, entertaining, comic book fare. Most of it is drivel that makes me believe that I don't really like senseless action/adventure. Which is annoying, because I know that I do like it, but what I generally see on screen isn't senseless and entertaining, it's dumb and unacceptable.

The suspension of disbelief is a delicate balance. It's a bargain between the filmmakers and the audience. Sitting in our seats, or home on the sofa, we want to believe, we just want the film to meet us halfway. We want the movies to care whether or not we're still with them, and to act like it's at least possible we might not be.

There's lots of ways to do it badly, and lots of ways to do it well. Wanted does it well by saying, "We're doing the impossible here. See this? Impossible. We have a thinly plausible explanation that we're breezing by quickly. Wave bye-bye to the explanation and lets get a move on." You know what? It works.

James MacAvoy is one of those actors who everyone assures me I love. I don't. He's okay and all, but when I see him, I don't run to the IMDb to find out what else he's been in. Angelina Jolie, on the other hand, is amazing. She's so beautiful you can almost forget she's talented, and so talented you can almost forget she's beautiful. As an assassin who takes Wesley under her wing, she's perfect; self-contained and self-assured, amused, grounded, and relaxed, she makes it seem as if her part has some depth (it doesn't).

The movie isn't winning any feminist points. Jolie is a Smurfette; there are no other female assassins. And, being the lone female, she hits all the cliché notes, including the daddy issues. Nonetheless, her presence is much appreciated.

On the other hand, I think I'm over Morgan Freeman. He's a great actor and I love him, but his roles are now almost entirely imitations or paradies of his previous roles. Yawn.

Wesley's disaffection with his lifestyle struck me as a cut-and-paste from Office Space (including the red stapler) and Fight Club. You say "homage," I say "write your own damn movie."

Despite its flaws, my verdict is that Wanted is wildly fun, just a crazy drive down twisty streets. The climax is too gorey, and the implausibility could add up if you let it, but you don't have to let it, because it's a movie that reaches out and invites you to play along.

(Curved-through-space cross-post)