MONKEY REVIEW: Wanted

June 30, 2008

wantedWanted scored big this weekend, somewhat surprisingly I might add, making an estimated $51 million, second only to the new Pixar movie, Wall-E. I saw it because it was directed by Timur Bekmambetov, who directed the Russian box office hits, Day Watch and Night Watch, and like those movies, Wanted is primarily an exercise in style rather than substance, but the style is so impressive that you’ll forget, at least temporarily, that the story you’re seeing unfold onscreen is pretty much the same old bill of goods action movie-wise, with some elements of The Matrix and Star Wars thrown in for good measure. The plot concerns a lowly office accountant named Wesley (James McAvoy) who finds himself being recruited by a centuries old band of assassins that call themselves the Fraternity, led by Sloan (Morgan Freeman): “Our purpose is to maintain stability in an unstable world – kill one, save a thousand,” Sloan tells Wesley. Angelina Jolie plays Fox, one of the Fraternity assassins who is assigned to train Wesley. As mindless action pictures go, Wanted is mostly pretty entertaining, albeit graphically violent, i.e., lots and lots of people getting shot in the head. It also takes place in roughly the same universe as this summer’s Speed Racer did, that is, the universe where physically impossible things become possible. If you’re the kind of person who says things to the movie screen like, “Ah, that could never happen in real life,” then save your money and don’t see this movie, otherwise you’ll be tearing your hair out. However, if you don’t mind your action very highly stylized, then you’ll probably get a kick out of most of the action set pieces, which also include a healthy dose of humor. Wanted is definitely not a highminded movie, and as far as its moral and message, well, it’s confused and dubious at best. Wanted is certainly not the first movie to offer up the idea of violence as a rite of manhood, or that picking up a gun can transform a loser into a real man, but when a major scene in the movie can be described as “employee walks into a factory, kills co-workers,” as my friend Robert pointed out, then it becomes problematic. Yes, I know it’s just a movie, but it is so wrong to want an entertainment that doesn’t make you feel uneasy about its morals, or lack thereof? Anyway, Wanted is silly, mindless fun directed by someone you wish had more interesting material to work you over with.

MONKEY RATING: THREE MONKEYS

(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)

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