Why go? I wouldn't if I were you.


An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            There are two ways to watch “Wanted”: laugh or be angry. To be angry at content these days is to be earnest, and the earnest among us tend to preach. So let’s just say that movies that imbue killing with glamour are crossing a dangerous line. It’s the same line that seems to have been crossed by the seventeen pregnant high school girls in Gloucester, Mass who must have seen “Juno” many times. The power of suggestion in our contemporary culture is indeed powerful, sometimes lethal.

            But “Wanted” is such a ridiculous movie that it is more appropriate to laugh than to preach. The slow motion gore lasts from first scene to last. Everyone bleeds at some point; bullets collide in mid-flight; a train drops with spectacular tension into a deep canyon; cars fly in a profusion of special effects thrills. The early scenes are full of horror shocks; at one point I bit the inside of my cheek in fright, a combat wound of sorts for a movie critic, but as time goes slowly by, our minds and bodies become thoroughly numbed by the bloody chaos.

            Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is a cubicle accountant whose boss is a scurrilous and corpulent fascist who gnaws on her secret stash of jelly doughnuts. So when Wesley is kidnapped by the glamorous Fox (Angelina Jolie), it’s a big step up from the cubicle. Fox takes the hapless accountant to a textile factory where automatic weaving looms produce intricate fabrics that also contain a binary code that carries a secret mandate for The Federation, a secret society of assassins with ancient roots.

            The group has retrieved Wesley, you see, because he has a heartbeat that can rise on special occasions to a count 400 times that of ordinary humans – all the better to shoot faster, for instance, when shooting the wings off a fly, his first assignment. Fox will mold the raw material that is Wesley into the sharp reflexes and amoral thinking of a successful assassin. The problem here is that although the movie is based on a comic book series, building a movie on a premise of professional murder is an unpalatable notion in 2008.

            There’s a small bit of delicious irony in watching Angelina Jolie, our global First Mom, play a professional assassin who can off anyone who crosses her shadow. Ms. Jolie has a secret weapon: she loves what she does, and it shows. Her stylish action moves, especially in contrast to those of her awkward bumpkin partner, generate appreciative laughter. Mr. McAvoy, a grand movie chameleon, is suitably astonished at his newfound capabilities as a killer.

            It remains that this is a blood soaked movie about the assassination of foreign and domestic leaders chosen for death by a secret society that thinks it knows what’s right for the world. Haven’t we seen enough of this in contemporary headlines? But there I go, preaching again. Why go? I wouldn’t if I were you.


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