Movie Review: Wanted (2008)

More like Unwanted.. amiright?

Wanted (2008) 

Starring: James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Terence Stamp, Thomas Kretschmann, Common, David O’Hara, Chris Pratt

Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov

Here’s the deal: a local paper (The Calgary Herald) had this ad months (possibly a year) ago asking readers if they’d like a chance to review movies for the paper. I emailed them about it, nothing happened, and I forgot about it. Then last week, I get a phone call asking me if I’d be interested in a free screening of Wanted in order to write a review for them, which was fairly exciting. I didn’t have huge hopes that this review would be a big deal or anything, but it’s kind of like when you buy a scratch ticket and briefly daydream about how this could be your chance to strike it big. It’s just a second or two, but it’s nice to indulge.

Then I picked up the package they left for me, and any enthusiasm I had for the project ended. They didn’t really want me to write a review, but rather they had a list of statements they wanted me to complete about the movie, making it more of a survey than a review I’d want to write. Hell, I wouldn’t even want to read a review with this structure, so I thought it all a bit lame. But, hey, free movie for me and Kim, for a movie I was mildly interested in, but unsure of. So this way I didn’t have to spend my own money on it to satisfy my own curiosity.

Originally, I figured I’d do what the Herald asked of me, then write up a review more to my standards. But now that I’ve done the work, I don’t have that much ambition to expend more effort into this movie. So I’ll post here what I wrote for them (not all of which made it into the paper), then expound upon those thoughts a bit more at the end. If you’re curious, you can see what the Herald published online (which is the same as what they published in the paper edition) here:

Favourite Scene:
When Morgan Freeman, dignified narrator of March of the Penguins, uttered the world’s most perfect curse word.

Best Line:
The aforementioned Morgan Freeman quote, which propriety will not allow me to repeat here.

I Couldn’t Believe:
Professional artists – be they director Timur Bekmambetov, actors, or writers – were actually involved in the creation of this project. But, hey, as HL Mencken once said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public”, so watch them all make a big pile of money over this horrendous film.

I Thought About Heading for the Exit When:
The film confirmed my early suspicions about its level of intelligence about five minutes in, when James McAvoy‘s caricature of boss starts to berate him with a stapler. Then and there, I knew this movie would be as bad as I feared. Little did I know it would get worse.

I Laughed Hardest When:
James McAvoy tried to act like a tough guy. McAvoy has proven himself to be a good actor in the past, but was poorly cast here, and not helped at all by the complete ridiculousness that surrounded him.

The Real Star of This Show Is:
Stunt Coordinator Nick Gillard, whose work is the only reason why anyone will be excited about this movie, as the stunts are the only thing it has going for it. Well, maybe he and whoever did Angelina Jolie‘s wardrobe and makeup.

I Liked This Better When:
It was called The Matrix. Think about it: office drone’s life is thrown for a loop when a mysterious woman and mystical black man recruit him, telling him the world he knows is a lie and train him to fight as a messianic saviour figure. Whoa, indeed.

This Movie Needed Less:
Of just about everything. There are many, many problems with this terrible, terrible movie, but the biggest among them is how ridiculously over-the-top the whole thing is. Because everything is bigger than life, there’s nothing to attach to as a viewer. Nothing has consequences, and thus nothing is truly exciting. An action movie like this needn’t strive for realism, but it needs to establish some degree of boundaries so that pushing those boundaries seems impressive. By trying to make everything in the movie impressive, they succeeded in making nothing impressive.

The Worst Element of the Movie Was:
James McAvoy’s first person narration. Narration has become a crutch for many movies and television shows these days, and rarely is it done effectively. In this movie, it only serves to emphasize the film’s terrible scripting and McAvoy’s expressionless attempt at an American accent.

If you like mindless action, then this will probably be your thing, as you can’t possibly get more action into a movie, and I hope that movies can’t get any more mindless. Unfortunately, the movie tries to play it both ways, setting everything up as ridiculously over-the-top, yet plays it as serious action fare. As farce, this may have had some redeeming qualities; but as is, it is completely devoid of any. If you require even a sliver of intelligence from your blockbuster entertainment, stay far, far away from Wanted.

I have more to say about the movie and how its fetish for gun violence is both symbolic of our morally-bankrupt culture and dreadfully boring in its repetitiveness, but I’m just going to leave it at this. Basically, most of the feelings I have for this movie are the same ones I had when I wrote my Transformers review, so to avoid repeating myself, I’ll just direct you to it and invite you to replace the Transformers-specific info with stuff about curving bullets and Looms of Fate. And for those of you not interested in reading that review, I’ll just pull out this one quote that feels painfully appropriate: “when the public continues to lower its expectations, then you can bet those who make movies will be listening, and will continue to lower the bar to meet those expectations”.

And while I’m at it, I’ll go ahead and give Wanted the same score I gave Transformers:


Related Reviews:
Lucky Number Slevin (2006)
Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)
Transformers (2007)

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