Every movie, I believe, has a moment that instantly determines whether you love it or hate it. That moment happens in "Wanted" very late in the game. One character goes on a rapid-speed run through a factory, instantly picking up and discarding guns, defiantly blazing away. He runs toward another character and shoots him point-blank, at close range, in the head. But wait, folks, there's more. The character proceeds to lodge his weapon in the victim's head and uses the body as a shield, while he continues to blast guys left and right, THROUGH THE OTHER GUY'S SKULL -- still running at top speed, mind you.
Now, if this scene sounds like something you'd dig, by all means, go see "Wanted." If it isn't, then I can't do anything for you, man.
Truth be told, "Wanted" couldn't have come along at a better time. With most youngsters and men-children preferring to stay at home and immerse themselves in the video-game carnage that is "Grand Theft Auto IV," here comes a movie that virtually comes close to capturing the bullet-soaked, high-octane, deranged-and-depraved mayhem that has turned that game into a must-have.
First, we have James McAvoy, complete with American accent, discovering his inner natural-born killer as Wesley, a corporate drone and all-around loser who is informed by a woman named Fox (Angelina Jolie) that 1) his father, who abandoned him years ago, was a highly trained assassin who died recently and 2) he has the potential to be one too.
At first, he greets the news with, of course, shock and dread. But after he re-evaluates his life as a nobody, he decides to give this whole murdering-people thing a go. This means getting rigorously instructed (translation: getting the stuffing beaten out of him on the daily) by Fox and her "fraternity" of noble-yet-notorious gunmen, led by Morgan Freeman's wise leader/dispatcher.
"Wanted," like nearly every summer movie that's out now, is based on a comic book -- excuse me, graphic novel. But since it's based on a graphic novel, you can expect it to be less profound and more profane than other comic-book movies -- not to mention crazy as all get out. (There are elaborate action sequences that defy not only all logic, but the laws of physics.)
However, "Wanted" does temper the amorality and nihilism established by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones' books. Despite the fact that he's now a killer-for-hire, Wesley, unlike his Eminem-looking, comic-book counterpart, still has a conscience. (That still doesn't stop him from getting a train derailed off a bridge to catch his target.)
However, the movie does manage to create its own brand of blunt, striking ferocity. And you can thank director Timur Bekmambetov for this voluminous and vulgar mix of violent, vigorous virtuosity. Bekmambetov, who directed those Russian vampire movies "Night Watch" and "Day Watch," follows a long line of foreign action directors who believe the best action movies must be fantastic to the point of teetering on ridiculousness. And if that means abandoning logic, common sense and a moral, responsible attitude, so be it!
While "Wanted" is a charged movie, I wouldn't call it sexually charged. Jolie once again steps into a role where she's such an unattainable, lethal bad girl (when she first appears, it's as if she materialized from another universe) that it's dang near a turnoff. But who needs a woman to be all warm and beautiful when there are guns to be shot! Besides, the movie is all about McAvoy and his wimp-to-pimp transformation. Casting McAvoy in the lead role is the movie's most clever, effective gag. I mean, did you ever think that you would see the "Atonement" guy popping caps all over the place?
While audiences may feel "Wanted" is an even pulpier version of "The Matrix," "Wanted" reminded me of another movie from 1999: "Fight Club." Just like that punk popcorn movie, it eventually becomes a crazed screed on taking control of your own life. And instead of Brad Pitt, you have his baby mama stepping into the Tyler Durden role. (But really, it's "Kung Fu Panda" for grown-ups.)
In the end, "Wanted" will leave you feeling quite buzzed. And, like most buzzes, it might leave you whirring with a bit of a headache. But at least this movie will have you feeling something.