Racing! Flying! Slicing! Dicing! (Sloooowing down…) Back to racing! Flying! Slicing! Dicing! If anything can be said of Kazakhstani-Russian director Timur Bekmambetov—the man behind the Night Watch series—it's that he's got a great, wildly hyperkinetic sense of rhythm. Had he not gone into film, it stands to reason that Bekmambetov might be some sort of avant-garde jazz percussionist/meth fiend.
Bekmambetov's latest, and his first American effort, the violent Matrix/Bourne series/Fight Club mashup, Wanted, stars James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie and is about—well, what is it about really? At the outset we are told that a millennium ago a group of weavers—yes, weavers—formed a secret "fraternity" of assassins. Weavers? Bekmambetov doesn't bother to flash us back to 1008 AD, but one can imagine the scene quite clearly. Several old ladies are hard at work on a tapestry when, suddenly, one of the weavers, possibly frustrated by a new pattern, suggests to her colleagues that random murder might be a good way to pass the time.
However it began, The Fraternity is at present led by the Morpheus-esque Sloan (Morgan Freeman) and now takes its orders from a clairvoyant automatic loom, which spins out its coded killing assignments from God—bored, apparently, with old-fashioned forms of smiting.
Included on The Fraternity's roster—a cast of characters who sport such monikers as The Butcher, The Exterminator and Mr. X—is Fox (Jolie). Jolie, playing it über-düber-cool, is ideally suited for Bekmambetov's visual style. Her collaboration of features and taut, tattooed appendages are every bit as mesmerizingly extreme as Bekmambetov's punchy aesthetic panache.
Fox recruits Wesley (McAvoy), a miserable cubicle dweller whose girlfriend is screwing his best friend and whose boss constantly harangues him for TPS reports. Wesley, who takes umbrage at first is, eventually, pleasantly surprised to learn that he is the scion of the world's greatest assassin. It turns out that what he first took for an anxiety disorder is in fact the latent ability to slow down time and shoot the wings off flies.
After being trained in The Fraternity's art of gun-fu, in which bullets find their target after being bent like Beckham, Wesley embarks on a series of warm-up killings before he finally begins the train-crashing, car-smashing, brain-mashing mission to revenge his father's murder.
Wanted is unapologetically nonsensical and derivative drivel. But for those craving a bit of blood, badass babe and fast car action, much worse films than this yarn have been spun.
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov and written by Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, Chris Morgan, Mark Miller and JG Jones
With James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Terence Stamp,
Dreamcatcher, Regal Stadium 14, 110 min., R