“Wanted” is a film of such staggering stupidity that I could only shake my head in disbelief. The fact that this nonsense actually got favorable reviews from many critics is even more astonishing. I hated every minute of “Wanted” and don’t think I’ve had a more depressing time at the movies this year. Also jaw-dropping is the film’s truly in-your-face contempt for its audience. More on that later.
The coming attractions trailer for “Wanted” really put me off, but some friends saw it and really liked it. Roger Ebert gave it a favorable review, which counts for something. It had a Danny Elfman score and was filmed in Chicago. So that was good enough for me.
I was hoping the bad vibes from the trailer would be overcome. Money is not so plentiful that I could afford to see a film I knew I would not like. I really wanted to like “Wanted.” But as the Duke says throughout “Big Jake” (1971): “Not hardly.”
“Wanted” is a good representation of everything that’s wrong with contemporary action movies. Computer-generated imagery allows characters and vehicles to defy the laws of physics, with stunts impossible to stage in real life….because they could not possibly happen. So they’re staged in a computer instead.
Most big-budge action movies require a sense of disbelief. That’s a given. The late Cubby Broccoli, producer of the James Bond movies, was quoted as saying something along the lines of, “Bond movies could be improbable, but never impossible.” The last Pierce Brosnan offering, “Die Another Day” (2002) often veered to the impossible, and suffered for it.
“Wanted” is one big, long, impossible.
Based on comic book series (God, I can’t wait for the day when producers and directors go back to adapting novels), “Wanted” tells us a secret order of assassins who have been around for 1,000 years. They get their orders to kill someone from coded words left in weaved thread from a loom, or some such nonsense. Wouldn’t a voice mail message be easier?
Mild mannered Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is a dweebish, put-upon accountant who hates his job and his life. He is recruited by Fox (Angelina Jolie) into the order. Fox tells him he is the son of one of their greatest assassins, who was killed the week before. The order is headed by Sloan (Morgan Freeman).
Good people here, and Terence Stamp shows up for a few scenes later on. It’s amazing that people of this caliber got talked into this. I’m also amazed that Jolie, who does so much great humanitarian work in real life, consented to appear in this film which is so debasing and contemptuous of humanity.
Wesley undergoes orientation sessions consisting of lots of punches to the face. The guys in “The Fight Club” didn’t undergo this much brutality. It goes on for what seems like days. He also trains with weapons, but this is actually a bearable scene, thanks to Elfman’s first-rate musical support.
We get lots of chases and gunfights here, which some critics are praising for their style and energy. Not me. The cutting is fast and everything is a blur. Favorite Chicago locations shoot by in the blink of an eye. Of course, cars and bodies fly though the air in gravity-defying detail, and a later chase scene has Fox crashing her car onto a moving train and surviving. It might look cool to a comic book reading 13-year-old boy, but for the rest of us, it’s stupid beyond words.
Equally inane is the trick they use to “curve a bullet”, meaning they shoot in such a way the bullet moves in an arc to reach its target instead of a straight trajectory. Who comes up with this stuff?
There are some twists at the end that are mildly interesting, but I had long since gotten past the point of caring.
What really pushed the film for me into the cinematic pits of utter loathing was the contempt it has for us, the audience. At one point in his narration, Wesley tells us (and I’m paraphrasing because I can’t remember the exact words), “At one time I was sad and pathetic, just like you.”
Gee, thanks a lot.
At the end, after an orgy of violence Wesley tells us about all the killing he’s done and then looks at the camera and says to us, “What the f--- have you done lately?”
Well, Wesley, I’ll tell you what the f--- I’ve done lately. I went to the show on a Sunday afternoon and saw the worst film of the year so far, a colossal dungheap of nihilistic, depressing junk. If this is what Hollywood is offering as entertainment these days, it’s no wonder the rest of the world hates America so much.
Rating for “Wanted”: Zero stars.