30 June 2008

Mooney at the Movies: Wanted

Jolie leans with it, rocks with it. (Universal)

Wanted (C-)

Starring James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman
Written by Michael Brandt & Derek Haas and Chris Morgan (based on the comic book series by Mark Millar)
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov

You've probably seen the trailers for Wanted and gone "Whoa." But you're in for a bit of bad news: you won't say that many more times once you get to the theater. For all its mind-blowing stunts, Wanted should be more aptly titled Wanting, as in Wanting More.

You will want more out of this stellar cast. Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie have both won Oscars, but they completely sleepwalk through their roles. And James McAvoy, so gripping in last year's Atonement, whines and drifts throughout the first 30 minutes or so. You won't necessarily want more action, but you will want them to not show their entire hand so early in commercials and previews. It really takes the thrill out of this thriller when you've already seen EVERY awesome scene. And boy will you want more out of those scenes that don't involve a bullet going completely through someone's head. The dialogue either serves the plot in its constant, dry explanations about plot devices like curved bullets and the Loom of Fate from the Narrator himself Morgan Freeman. Or it's a clunky soliloquy straight from Fight Club's anarchist worldview.

But that's where the classic Fight Club and this film part ways. Sure, it wants to have it both ways: rail against the horrors of consumerism while at the same time declaring that happiness is a warm gun that shoots untraceable bullets. Basically, cubicle dweller Wesley Gibson (McAvoy) barely stays awake through his account management reports until he's rescued by Fox (Jolie) and gets recruited until he gets recruited into the Fraternity (a 1000-year old brotherhood--plus Angelina--of assassins).

And what would an action movie be without a reluctant hero? McAvoy continually tries to duck out of his "destiny" despite the constant pressure to join up and experience the Most Awesome Thing Ever. But alas, he decides to get all philosophical and wonders if it's right to dispose of wasteful, murderous cheaters. "Kill one, save a thousand," Jolie responds. And thus everything is tied up with a neat, blood-red bow and the killing spree begins.

But if this was only a killing spree, then Wanted would be more pointless than it already is. So, we get a big and unexpected twist. And while it's better than your average for a summer action flick, the writers, veterans of the Fast and the Furious franchise, use it only to serve up more killing. And while it's stylish, it's not exactly original. Sorry, Bekmambetov, the Wachowskis did all this only better almost a decade ago.

Basically, this is a movie that wants to be crazy-sexy-cool, but doesn't get all three parts. The Russian director behind this madness may one day impress us, he just needs to make sure the marketers don't show all the tricks up his sleeve to soon.

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