Following on from the qualified successes of Night Watch and Day Watch, Russian director Timur Bekmambetov has returned with Wanted, an action film based on the cult comics of the same name by Mark Millar.
James McAvoy stars as Wesley Gibson, a Luke Skywalker type frustrated with the desperation and routine of his life. The film focuses on Gibson’s introduction to the Fraternity, a secret band of assassins led by Morgan Freeman’s Sloan, and his relationship with Angelina Jolie’s Fox, a member of the Fraternity. The end result is a film that is bold, loud and kinetic, proudly realising the violence of Millar’s work; the end result is also a film that is likely to divide opinions.
As with a film like Face/Off, the plot in Wanted is relatively unsophisticated, but it does serve very adequately as a way of moving the film forward from one sequence or set piece to another. Crucially, the pacing is good throughout and exposition is invariably quick and clear, meaning that it’s never difficult to follow what’s going on; this is certainly not the case with Night Watch and Day Watch, and Wanted is all the better for it.
In part this is because Bekmambetov has shrewdly chosen to ignore some of the complexities and elements present in Millar’s comics. As such, Wanted is a good example of how to adapt tricky source material for the screen: rather than opting for a strict take on what is a very dark and violent story, Bekmambetov has taken the characters and tone of Millar’s arc as a cue, not a rule. This has allowed him to create a companion piece that should satisfy those with knowledge of the film’s origin and those unacquainted with the comics.
These decisions also allow Bekmambetov to concentrate fully on the action - and with very successful results. There are a number of good to very good action sequences during the course of the film, including a memorable car chase that shows a joyous disregard for physics and is almost the match of those in the first two Bourne films. Even better than that, however, are the opening and closing sequences; inventive and surprising, and both concluding with a quite impossible but brilliant-because-of-it assassination, there is a well-judged symmetry to these two sequences that really adds to the film.
As well as a shared quality, these sequences also feature common techniques, most obviously sprawling pans juxtaposed with Raimi-esque close-ups, and frequent, rapid movement. Bekmambetov uses these methods to skilfully expand and develop the action sequences in terms of scale and intensity, but not without cost: there is nothing quite so chaotic and disorienting as the worse parts of Spider-Man 3, but the very style of the film could well leave some cold.
This extends to the prevalent special effects as well. Building on his work on the Watch films, Bekmambetov showcases some highly impressive effects work in Wanted, effectively blending real world violence with comic book feats – think The Matrix meets Sin City, but the frequency and nature of these effects could just as easily irritate as impress.
Thankfully, the casting of all of the two main characters is good and neither gets lost amidst the action. McAvoy does particularly well with a character in flux, showing charm, control and playfulness as he grows into his role. McAvoy also gets some of the funniest lines in the film; as befits Millar’s comics, there is a dark and wry sense of humour to the film, and McAvoy delivers his constant apologies with great timing.
Jolie meanwhile is brazen, sexy, flirty and dangerous – all the things she should be -as Fox. Freeman doesn't work quite as well as Sloan, although this reflects a role that doesn't always fit, especially in the latter parts of the film. Peripheral characters are just that, but fans of Hustle will also see that Danny Blue has moved on in the world!
In short, Wanted is a film that offers thrilling evidence of Bekmambetov’s flair and invention as a director, and also sees McAvoy introduce himself very successfully to this type of fare. Still, Wanted may not be for everyone - frequently violent and fully deserving of its 18 certificate, the film is unlikely to appeal to anyone who dismissed Die Hard as shallow or The Matrix as fanciful. It is also worth noting that Wanted remains respectful to its roots and as such is very definitely another comic book adaptation. In a summer that has already seen Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk and will soon see Hellboy II and The Dark Knight, Wanted could simply be another film in an oft-derided genre for some.
Last updated: 18/04/2018 22:46:13