Saturday, June 28, 2008


Skin, Bones and Tattoos

A young man stuck in a mundane job suddenly got pulled out of it by a beautiful dominatrix, and into a world where it seemed like he's The One savior to rid the bad guys from the face of it. When the trailer first came out, there was word that hey, it's the Matrix all over again, this time with one of Hollywood's latest "it" boy James McAvoy (it rhymes too) in the starring role of an indestructible superhero with a penchant for the gun theatrics. Save to say though the storyline for Wanted is anything like the 1999 Wachowskis movie, for the sole fact that it's many miles away from the various philosophical musings that ploughed deep into the Matrix world.

Based upon a comic book series by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones, Wanted is Russian director Timur Bekmambetov's first foray into the English language Hollywood big-budgeted blockbuster, and if you're looking for a no-brainer summer popcorn movie, then Wanted would be right up your alley. It's noisy and in your face, it's spruced by special effects, it has immense violence and it's littered with so much profanity, I thought Bekmambetov might have felt it was standard English. For those familiar with his Russian science fiction works in Nightwatch and Daywatch, Bekmambetov brings about the same distinct style of his in delivery high octane action, and balletic gunplay that would probably rival John Woo in the business, set against pulsating rock music, and plenty of bullet against bullet, in shots so cool, it deserved to be repeated again, and again, milking the one trick in various screen situations.

From the onset, you know you're in for a ride that requires a suspension of belief. Wanted sits right up there with any superhero movie, because the characters all perform superhuman stunts, from leaping out of buildings unscathed, to possessing prowess that can be trained in weeks, to the creation of a Lazarus Pit equivalent to heal all bodily wounds. If any assassin can plough their trade as demonstrated in the story, I guess all of us have got to be afraid, from their 100% accuracy from 10,000 miles, to - wait for it - curving a bullet around the bend via a flick of the wrist. OK, so all these might appeal to even the most jaded action genre fans, as it's honestly something that is refreshing, especially since it combined effortlessly with the visionary visuals of Bekmambetov.

But Wanted gets plagued by lazy storytelling, even by standards for no-brainer action movies. The first few intertitles compressed the timeline from 1000 years to just 6 weeks ago, and undoubtedly the ending too reeks of carelessness and the same super summary. All these to tell a story of the transformation of McAvoy's Wesley Gibson from The Narrator to a Tyler Durden equivalent, complete with the account of daily drudge with easter egg visuals filling up the screen, as he channels his energies into the right direction of assassination after being accepted by The Fraternity, undergoing a training regime equivalent in toughness as experienced by Kung Fu Panda. Picking up skills from Gunsmith (Common), The Repairman (Marc Warren), the Butcher (Dato Bakhtadze) and The Exterminator (Konstatin Khabensky) - there you go, the equivalent of Crane, Mantis, Monkey and Viper - he's chief tutor is the ultra-skinny Fox, played by Angelina Jolie.

Now we all know Jolie's body comes tattooed, and in her movies they usually get the full makeup treatment to mask them. I'm not sure if those are authentic tattoos on Jolie, but I guess they do provide you a hint at how they adorn her body. While not quite your Trinity type, she thrives on a whole lot of adrenaline that would make a drug junkie blush, and gets assigned the duty to train the rookie in the ways of The Frat, whose motto Kill One, Save A Thousand, she believes in wholeheartedly. I can't remember watching Jolie on screen and quite anorexic looking as well, though her new found uber-svelte figure gets featured in some of the best action sequences in the movie.

As mentioned, you've got to leave your logic prowess at the door and leap into fantasy mode so that the action here would be plausible, and sometimes ridiculous to boot, especially when some unfortunate attempts at humor found its way into the mix. And I can't help but to laugh out loud when a crucial plot development sounded like a rip-off/broken record of another famous trilogy that will go unnamed here, which in actual fact can be seen coming from a mile away.

But there is a saving grace to its limited intelligence though. It's a timely reminder again of how absolute power over life and death corrupts absolutely, and what's there to stop corruption at the top when they have the means and the firepower to exact changes? And given anything that is prone to human interpretation, you'd come to expect some form of corruption, as folks at the top skew things in their favour, either for self-preservation, or climbing Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It explored this very quickly, mainly because it had to make way for more action, but I thought it was a somewhat good effort to have it included, no matter how small. Oh, and many things in the movie also went unexplained as well, so don't try to spend too much time figuring out how to harness the power of an extreme adrenaline rush.

For those who like their screen violence graphic, unadulterated and unflinching in slow motion, reverse motion, and pulling out all tricks in the special effects book, then Wanted is for you. Otherwise it'll just be another routine exercise that is all style and little substance, something which most reviews tend to harp on, and I'll throw my 2 cents worth of contribution at as well.

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