Wednesday, July 2, 2008


My excuse for seeing Wanted is that I, as a Russian major, must support the foray of director Timur Bekmambetov into American cinema.

My reason is that he's a slick and stylish director, and I like slick and stylish movies -- even if they're a bit low on the substance part. That and I'm in a mood where an ultraviolent flick is good for the mental health.

To begin, Wanted meets my basic demand -- it was worth the ticket price. (5.50 -- yay, for the local cinema's ladies' night!) Bekmambetov used an interesting series of cuts to keep the exposition from being too dull. (Can the Time Warp be dull?) The car chases were thrilling. The violence was creative and artful. The pacing felt a little slow at moments, but overall, it worked.

The movie relies heavily on a voice-over from James McAvoy. I'm not certain how I feel about it. I suspect it was a nod to Fight Club. The film also bears some strong similarities to Bekmambetov's campy Russian vampire film of gloriousness Night Watch. Both films open with a lesson in the history of the film's universe -- in Night Watch, the formation of a truce between the armies of light and darkness and here, the formation of the mysterious Fraternity. Both films have an underlying theme of creating and preserving balance (more on that later). The parallels between Wesley and Anton (the protagonist of Night Watch) are extensive -- wimpy dude suddenly finds himself killing things in visually nifty ways. And there are daddy issues.

Oh yes, and Konstantin Khabetsky -- who played Anton in Night Watch and appears to be Johnny Depp to Bekmambetov's Tim Burton -- appears as a Russian assassin with a collection of pet rats and a damn good bottle of vodka. (Platinum Russki Standart -- I wants it, precious!) His character is a little "off" -- I think blazhennii might be the Russian word for him -- and throughly delightful. We also have an Easter egg with the buzzing flies. Poor flies.

James McAvoy did well with his character he was believable whether he was wimping out, babbling in terror, or kicking ass. Morgan Freeman was predictably solid and created enough ambiguity around his character to make the twist that shall not be revealed fairly satisfying. Angelina Jolie was the weak link. Yes, she's hot with the guy and tattoos. But she apparently has two modes in this movie. Grim face and smirk. What happened to the Angelina Jolie of Girl, Interrupted?

If you go to this film, go expecting style, enterntainment, creative ways of inflicting a lot of damage. Do not go if you want a lot of substance.

But lest it be said that film has no substance at all, I will argue that it has some. The theme of balance provides some meat -- particularly if you wanted to force the film into conversation with the larger body of Russian philosophical work on the difference between egotism and individuality. Our assassin squad seems to operate with a binary of the wolves and the sheep. Are you going to be a sheep, blindly stumbling to your "destiny," or are you going to be a wolf and take destiny into your own hands? The movie doesn't provide a clear answer -- which I do think was on purpose -- and I like that. I wish that the film had taken a little more time to explore not playing that game at all -- which is suggested by the wishes of Wesley's father for his son, but whatever. Summer action flick.

Also, no one in their right mind should bring their six year old to this film. Someone did. The film is rated R for a reason. Shame on you, parent who did so!