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Wednesday, June 25, 2008 01:39 am

More coherence Wanted

A subpar Matrix, with more gore and offensive female stereotypes

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Wanted Running time 1:10 Rated R ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East
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Wanted Running time 1:10 Rated R ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

As action movies become more prevalent — and when are they more common than in the summer? — film directors find themselves with the unenviable task of topping the latest screen mayhem that made audiences gasp. Truth be told, they haven’t been successful in quite some time; most onscreen action has been either repetitious or incomprehensible. Still, you have to give director Timur Bekmambetov props for trying in Wanted, a film as preposterous as it is audacious. Adapted from the comic book by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones, this high-energy tale focuses on Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), an office nobody who gets no respect at work, has a cheating girlfriend, and suffers from anxiety attacks. His life is turned upside down when he is kidnapped one evening by Fox (Angelina Jolie), a member of the Fraternity, a centuries-old organization of assassins bent on maintaining order. It seems that Wesley’s father, whom he never knew, was a member of this secret club. He’s just been killed, and it’s up to his discarded son to avenge him. What our confused hero doesn’t realize is that he possesses latent warrior abilities and that once he accepts them and is trained properly he’ll be one of the most lethal killers in the world. Sloan (Morgan Freeman) is on hand to guide him, and Fox hangs around to kick him in the butt whenever he needs tough love. The training scenes, which are pretty standard, are made irritating by Gibson’s whining and McAvoy’s unconvincing turn. The actor’s boyish looks prevent him from being taken seriously in this role, an obstacle the film never overcomes. Jolie is great, enjoying the physicality of the role, and though I wished the movie focused solely on her, Fox is a one-note character. The film kicks into high gear once the mismatched duo gets after the bad guys, and you can’t help but be knocked out by the action sequences, especially an extended chase involving a train. Still, that does not outweigh the silliness of bullets that change trajectory in midair or cars that defy the laws of physics. Wanted ends up being a subpar Matrix knockoff with far more gore and replete with offensive female stereotypes — namely, what passes for summer fun these day.
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