Saturday, July 12, 2008

Movie Review - Wanted

After seeing the trailer for this movie, I was intrigued and excited. It looked like a lot of fun. It was based on a comic that I knew nothing about...I find it interesting that we're seeing so many movies come out lately based on comic books and/or graphic novels.

The Main Turnoff
Anyway, the movie was rated R which I didn't think was terribly unusual since it was a movie about a group of assassins. However, upon walking out of the movie, one of the main reactions of both Lynette and myself was "that didn't HAVE TO BE rated R." In fact, we each liked the movie EXCEPT for the fact that it was rated R. The director/writers (perhaps based on the direction of the comic book...perhaps not), obviously intended for this to be rated R. The F-Bomb flowed like water through the script. The violence factor could have easily been toned down (even for an assassin movie), but they seemed to really like the special effect of showing bullets explode through people's heads...from numerous angles and even in reverse. There were a couple of naked buttocks (one during a partially clothed sex scene) which could have kept things at PG-13, but were there nonetheless. This is one of the many movies out there that would have still gotten the point across and been just as good (nay, better) had it been PG-13 instead of R. If you have a chance to see an "Airplane Edit" or some other fairly official non-R-edit of the movie, go for it. On the other hand, a "clearplay" edit might be ok for the language factor, but might cut too much out on a 'violence' factor and leave the movie incomprehensible.

Anyway, stepping away from the "gratuitous R Rating" factor, let's speak to the movie.

The Cast
The casting was great. Unlike a lot of people, I can take or leave Angelina Jolie...and actually, it's more often "leave." She's alright, but not generally anything 'to write home about.' Through segments of this movie, she still struck me as a little 'blah', but there were quite a few scenes that made me glad she was up on screen. My particular favorite is when our white collar assassin is trying to leave the hideout and trying to get past the other assassins and she just smirks at him and stands aside. I don't think she even says anything during that scene, but her stage presence is great and added a cool element to the character. Morgan Freeman did a fabulous job as the leader of the assassin group. He felt a little "bored" in a couple of places, but overall he did well. Jame McAvoy as the white collar assassin was wonderful. I found him vaguely familiar but it took a google search to help me remember that I'd seen him most recently in "Atonement." He was also "Mr. Tumnus" in lion/witch/wardrobe. His other credits meant nothing to me. Despite his prolific use of the F-bomb, he was a character (Wesley) that I could relate to on some levels...which was something this movie did well. I truly felt connected to him as a bored out of his mind employee in a cube farm type setting just looking for a change.

The Story
Which brings me to the storyline. The plot of the film is rather interesting. Call me sick, but I have a sort of fascination with assassin-style cults (I just finished playing Assassin's Creed a few weeks ago). Still, assassination aside, this movie's plot is a fairly core concept. Someone ill at ease in his/her life wistfully hopes that there could be something out there to make things more interesting...and then voila, the interesting opportunity presents itself...but now our protagonist must determine if or how to transition into this new interesting phase while still being true to a 'self' that he/she never really fully understood to begin with. Or in shorter terms - Self Realization. :)

Narrated by our protagonist, the movie lets us in on everything stressing him out...everything he's worried about...everything he's upset about...everything that's disappointed him. His job sucks...his apartment sucks...his girlfriend sucks...his life sucks. Despite all the wallowing and self pity, he is essentially complacent and willing to just go 'day-in, day-out' in a blind blur for as long as he can. Still, we realize that he has dreams or aspirations for something better...but he doesn't even realize what those may be.

Enter the assassins. An internal war in the assassin's fraternity shows us one assassin killing another from a long distance. We're then let on that our protagonist is the son of the dead man and that the assassin's instincts and skills are partially genetic and so he is now on one side's hit list and the other side's recruit list. Caught in the middle, Wesley must try and figure out who he really is and what it is he believes and then take a stand and become his own person.

The ending (or rather, the moment of decision for our protagonist and another major character...while in the library...I'm not going to spoil it more than that), was a little tough for me. There were other directions it could have gone, and I admit that I'm not sure any of them would have felt much/any better. However, the "absolutist" sort of way that the pivotal decision is made/followed is a bit too hardcore. Maybe the character that carried it out just wasn't given enough depth in that aspect, or maybe I didn't believe what depth their was...but I didn't buy it. Still, I didn't hate the ending and actually came out feeling decent about the movie and the message.

Special Effects
Amid the covert soul searching and personal reflection, Wesley finds himself thrown through many trials to learn the trade as well as many fantastic battles for his life both before and after he has attuned his skills.

One special effect element from the trailer that intrigued me is the concept that "bullets do not fly straight." This is something I'd always known, but the movie takes it to a higher level suggesting that, with the right concentration and skill, you can use that non-straight arc to your advantage by actually curving bullets literally around corners (or buses or slabs of pork or other people). The "bullet camera" effect used to emphasize this was pretty cool and rather subtle in the way it showed the bullet target a specific object out of its normal trajectory and then curve to reach it.

The same bullet camera was taken farther by showing slow-mo killings in forward and reverse, generally of a bullet going in and out of someone's skull. This to me was gratuitous and unnecessary. Following the bullet's path back to the unseen assassin at a distance was cool...but showing in elaborate detail how it blasted through a person's brain wasn't something I needed to see.

The chase scenes and vehicle effects were good. They were over the top and naturally a bit unbelievable, but based on the genre, that's acceptable.

The near final "storming the castle" scene was well done and entertaining. The main hole for me there (warning - potential partial spoiler...I'll try to mask it) had to do with 'planting the bomb.' The explosives were planted so precisely (not in terms of exactness, but in terms of location...which sounds like a contradiction unless you consider what surrounded the 'castle' as compared with what's inside) which is very hard to believe considering the transporters of the explosives. While storming the castle, the violence again went a bit over the top to the gory side (especially while dealing with the 'repairman').

So, with all things considered, I really enjoyed the movie from a high level perspective, but I was pulled WAY back down by the gratuitous violence and constant F-bomb-ing. Had it been a PG-13 film, this would easily be a 4 star escapist flick. However, the R rated material forces me to pull it down.

2 1/2 stars

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