If you can think of a new and exciting way
to have one man shoot another, you score a point. If you can think of several, you deserve a round of applause. If you can find a way to include them in a movie that doesn't result in embarrassed laughter but rather sustained awe, then congratulations - you've officially made the pages of my cool book. Timur Bekmambetov would be somewhere near the front, because Wanted represents his most imaginative and inventive movie to date.
Put simply, the visionary (read: bonkers) Russian director behind Night Watch and Day Watch is a man who knows how to direct action. The best way to describe his visual style is to let his characters do the talking: "This is your father's gun," says Morgan Freeman's assassin mentor to James McAvoy's young prot�g�. "He could conduct a symphony orchestra with it." Here, Bekmambetov orchestrates a cacophony of chaos with pin-point precision like some mad, laughing tyrant; the sounds of twisted metal and gunfire his music. The result is a bloody exhausting, incredibly satisfying action ejaculation: Wanted is pure cinematic spunk.
The set-up is pure comic-book fare, coming from the pages of Mark Millar's own cool book - the critically acclaimed guns 'n' gore graphic novel of the same name. McAvoy plays Wesley Gibson, a feckless office drone who's clued into his deadly lineage by Angelina Jolie's smouldering sexpot Fox. After a supermarket showdown - complete with a gun that fires round corners (one point) - Fox whisks Wesley away to a secret organisation known as the Fraternity: an ancient clan who have been carrying out assassinations for a thousand years. Here, he learns his father was quite the hitman, and that killing is in his blood. One frenzied training montage later - including lessons on how to slow time and curve bullets (that's two) - and McAvoy's transformation from office spod to ice-cold killer is complete, leaving him to hunt down his father's murderer and exact revenge.
Wanted's world is one where physics do not apply, where logic is merely an occasional visitor and where suspension of disbelief is enforced on punishment of death. You want action? You've come to the right movie, my friend. Bekmambetov serves up some of the most kickass action scenes seen so far this millennium - you'd honestly have to go back to The Matrix until you found something this fresh. Cars flip, twist and tumble like they're powered by rocket fuel. Mountains of bloody bodies hit the ground in balletic gun battles. This is obscene poetry in motion. Jolie and McAvoy take to the carnage like ducks to water (in slo-mo ultra-zoom bullet-time. And the ducks have guns. And the water is on fire). One final scene sees McAvoy take down around a hundred men with his gun barrel still stuck in the head of his last victim
. (That's three and counting.) Wanted's ingenuity makes Shoot 'Em Up
look drab in comparison.
But it's not the size of the budget or the body count that makes Wanted exceptional; it's the brains behind the brawn that makes it so special. Bekmambetov displays a gift for painting a demented picture - think Michel Gondry with a gun fetish. Even in the movie's quieter moments, the director's artistry is front and centre, yet never in a distracting or disruptive way - Bekmambetov's camera is always roaming for the best angle, always framing the action in comic-book panels. Millar's graphic novel might supply the images, but it's the director who brings them to life so thrillingly and imbues them with wit and tongue-in-cheek humour (see Wesley's "fuck yeah!" resignation for the perfect example). Where The Matrix sequels were undone by their staid, po-faced cod-philosophies, Wanted offers a nod and a wink, and steals a win by daring to have some goddamn fun.
How do I love Wanted? Let me count the ways. McAvoy is bruising, brilliant, a powderkeg of rage. Jolie has never been sexier (and she gets her bum out - it's lovely). It has exploding rats. And a magic sewing machine. And a man jumping out a window of one skyscraper and landing on another. Morgan Freeman says the word "motherfucker". Oh, and it has a gunshot fired through several car windows, some cans of drink, the ring of a donut and into a man's forehead from over a mile away (that's four). It boasts more ideas in any five minutes of its run-time than most movies manage throughout their entirety. In normal cinematic terms, it could easily be dismissed as gun porn, boyish nonsense or action overkill. Fact is, in the realms of badass cinema, Wanted is damn near untouchable. Ali