Friday, March 20, 2020

Wanted Review

I watched "Wanted" and found it entertaining, but wasn´t overly impressed. In fact, I considered the film a lesser attempt of portraying over-the-top action than the excellent "Shoot ´Em Up." Then I did a little research on "Wanted" and realized it was based on a comic book miniseries and suddenly the film made just a little more sense to me and I was able to be slightly more acceptable to its banana curve bullet trajectories and insanely silly train derailment. The film is still flawed and lacks the warmth and character of "Shoot ´Em Up," but when it comes to mindless action films, "Wanted" is more than passable entertainment and if you can check your brain before putting the 5 inch disc into your DVD or Blu-ray player, then "Wanted" can make for an entertaining two hours.

James McAvoy is the headliner for "Wanted" and is joined by Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman. Oddly, Freeman is not featured on the packaging cover for the home video releases and it is likely that most people have no clue who James McAvoy is. The Scottish actor is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Mr. Tumnus in "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," but put forth good performances in films such as "The Last King of Scotland" and the television miniseries "Band of Brothers" and "Children of Dune." Jolie and Freeman are far higher profiled actors and I will typically watch anything starring Morgan Freeman. Jolie is far more of a tabloid story these days than a serious actress, at least in my opinion.

In "Wanted," Wesley Gibson (McAvoy) works in accounting for a very large woman who constantly nags him and causes him to go into fits of anxiety. His best friend is sleeping with his girlfriend and through all of his years of life he has amounted to nothing. His father had left him when he was just born. However, his life takes a dramatic change when an assassin named Fox (Jolie) approaches him at the pharmacy counter while getting his anxiety pills. He is informed that his father was a great assassin and had just been murdered and that his father´s killer is in the store and looking to kill him. A wild ride in a Dodge Viper and a large number of bullets introduce Wesley to the world of the Fraternity, which is led by Sloan (Freeman).

Wesley is told that his anxiety is actually a rare condition where his heart rate begins to beat at roughly 400 beats per minute and he gains improved sight and reflexes and that time nearly stops. Never having fired a gun, Wesley is put under duress and shoots the wings off of three flies. This was the third of many insanely silly and over-the-top moments in the film, but it is only a teaser of what is to come as Wesley is trained to become a super assassin by Fox and a number of other members of the Fraternity that includes a Russian known as the Repairman (Marc Warren), who loves rats and the knife training and wielding Butcher (Dato Bakhtadze). He is slow to learn at first, but soon embraces his role and trains to kill the rogue Fraternity assassin Cross (Thomas Kretschmann) who killed his father.

I´m not going to get any further into the story as that would betray some key plot twists, but I do want to point out two of the moments that occur in the film without their context to help further illustrate how far this film goes to betray reality. There is a moment when some of the characters square off in a bullet train that crosses a very high gorge between two tunnels. Somehow, the survival rate is extremely low, but the key characters escape mostly unscathed. Another moment that never quite sat well was the dump truck full of explosive peanut butter digesting rats. It was silly when just one rat was exploded in a scene foreshadowing what was to come, but how exactly can you get that many mangy rats into a dump truck and have the time to put watches on so many of them? Like I said earlier, you need to check your head at the door.

"Wanted" is fun, but requires the audience to completely suspend the notion of reality. In three positions I have achieved the NRA rank of Distinguished Expert and earned Marksman with a pistol in the United States Army Infantry. Therefore, I am a bit offended by the thought of putting a banana curve into a bullet and being able to accurately hit a target in the manner shown by the characters in this film. It was a little more difficult for me to swallow some of the action sequences in the film and I just rolled my eyes when three consecutive bullets collided in mid-air (technically six bullets as it takes two to make a collision). Even with my distaste of bullet physics, I found a lot of mindless fun within the frames of "Wanted."

Director Timur Bekmambetov marks his Hollywood debut with "Wanted" after the entertaining "Night Watch" and "Dark Watch" played well in his native Russia and Kazakhstan. Those films had similar elements to "Wanted" and Bekmambetov certainly has a talent in making over-the-top action films with secret sects of characters. He understands how to keep the pace moving in a high octane action film, but provides meaningful breathers for the character that adds just enough exposition to inform the audience. There are certainly films out there that are faster paced and "Wanted" is a far cry from the frenetic pace of "Aliens," but far more engaging than a number of other action films. The style of touch of Bekmambetov is one of the true assets of "Wanted" that keep this film from being an abysmal and idiotic picture.

I´m not going to categorize "Wanted" as being a good picture. I´m not even going to say it is a good film. That would suggest the plot and story are far better than what they really are. However, there are guilty pleasures in life that are just fun to watch and "Wanted" is one of those pictures that is very entertaining, but misses out on the qualities that define a classic. Sometimes it is nice to just sit back and watch a popcorn film and that is where "Wanted" succeeds, as a picture that just wants to have fun. You are going to roll your eyes more than once, but a couple times the thought is going to pop into your head that something you just saw was pretty cool. The story is lacking. The acting won´t impress. However, the action and style make up for some of the film´s shortcomings.

"Wanted" arrives on Blu-ray with a good looking 2.35:1 widescreen picture that is mastered with the VC-1 codec. I had been impressed with the look of the film on DVD and was more than satisfied with the Blu-ray release, although I felt the DVD was comparatively better. During my DVD review I had pointed out how strong the rat invasion sequence looked and it is again an interesting scene to witness. The shimmering of water on skin stands out in high definition and Mrs. Pitt´s shoulder blades looked very nice in high definition if you feel Jolie is the epitome of a female. Colors are nicely rendered with strong saturation. The red Dodge Viper in the beginning of the film looks very good. There are plenty of scenes in the film that takes place in the shadows and black levels and shadow detail are both excellent. The print used to cull this Blu-ray was in pristine shape and no issues from the source materials can be found.