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Posts Tagged ‘insane’

From the Hootoo archive. Originally published July 31st 2008:

Hello again, everyone, and welcome to another edition of the film review column you can safely ignore. We have a bit of a good news/bad news situation to begin with this week – the good news is that we’re not looking at yet another superhero movie! On the other hand, however, it is another comic-book adaptation.

The opus in question is Timur Bekmambetov’s Wanted, which boldly takes the summer action movie to places it has never been before: and indeed to places which may not have actually existed before. Whether or not this is a good thing I will leave to you to decide.

It opens promisingly enough with a solemn caption describing the foundation of a cult of assassins by some medieval weavers. I briefly wondered what weavers needed assassins on the payroll for, deciding that a) the woollen goods trade was a bit more rock ‘n’ roll back then and b) this was just a bit of background colour and not that relevant to the plot. Happily, I have seldom been more wrong.

After the caption we spend a lot of time in the company of hamster-like nobody Wesley (James McAvoy) who has a rubbish job where he’s victimised by his boss, a trampy girlfriend who’s seeing his traitorous best mate, no money, low self-esteem, etc etc. All this changes when he’s accosted in the supermarket by Fox (Angelina Jolie) – it’s not clear if this is actually her name or just a placeholder description they forgot to get back to. Ol’ Air-bag Mouth is there to protect him from an attack by master assassin Cross (Thomas Kretschmann) and does about eight million dollars worth of property damage in the process. After this she wheels him off to a textile mill where a bloke called Sloan (Morgan Freeman, having some fun) basically re-does the red pill/blue pill scene from The Matrix with him, except this time it involves more cruelty to animals. (Wanted sort of revolves around cruelty to animals, on an epic scale. And cruelty to people, come to think of it. It’s sort of comprehensively vicious. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

It turns out Wesley is the son of the world’s greatest assassin, who belonged to the previously-established cadre of weaver-backed hitmen (‘Do you guys kill people or make sweaters?!?’ wails our hero, confused). Wesley’s dad has apparently been taken out by Cross, and Sloan and Fox want him to join the business and exact revenge…

Wanted would like to be The Matrix so badly it hurts, and to be fair it gets much of the way there: the action sequences are extraordinary, although for the most part they’re so ludicrously over-the-top that they’re funny rather than thrilling. However, what really makes this movie distinctive, if that’s the right word, is the whole weaver-hitman angle. You see, Sloan and the gang aren’t your standard mercenary hired guns. They are the Assassins of Destiny, operating on some sort of utilitarian principle – it’s okay to kill one innocent person if that saves a thousand others down the line somewhere. (This moral justification is somewhat undermined by a sequence where Wesley cheerfully offs virtually an entire train full of innocent people in order to get his man.) This would be quite a cool idea were it not for the somewhat unexpected mechanism by which Destiny communicates with them. The mechanism in question is a loom.

No, really. Morgan Freeman keeps the loom in his bit of the factory and by looking at all the little bobbles in the fabric it produces and doing some sort of kabbalah he can decipher who Destiny would like to have shot in the head. This is very probably the most demented and risible idea in the entire history of cinema, but at least it has originality on its side (I was going to put in a name-drop/joke here about once having my palm read by Mark Millar (writer of Wanted), the spectacular inaccuracy of his predictions, and my hopes he has better luck with the loom – but it turns out this bit isn’t in the original comic. Bugger).

Wesley, indeed, has justifiable qualms about this basis for his activities to begin with, but comes around to the company line fairly rapidly. One gets the impression that this is because if he buys the story about the predictive linen he gets to hang out with Fox, shoot guns at people, do car stunts, and basically look cool, and if he doesn’t then, well, it’s back to his old job for him. (The fact that the Loom of Doom keeps fingering rich fat guys for the chop rather than homeless teenage mothers may help – it certainly helps him hang on to the audience’s sympathies.) This lack of any kind of coherent moral underpinning is fundamental to Wanted. In many ways it seems to be an inadvertent illustration of that old saw about power corrupting. No sooner does Wesley learn of his true heritage than he’s telling his boss where to stick it and half-braining his treacherous pal, but one strongly senses that this isn’t because he’s suddenly and triumphantly in touch with his true self, but because Morgan Freeman has just stuck $3 million in his bank account which means he can act like a prong all he likes now without worrying about getting the sack.

This is not, however, one of those movies which rewards too much excavation. It is the purest kind of popcorn nonsense, one of the most thoroughly excessive movies of recent years (though it doesn’t quite reach the astounding level of Crank), and for the most part highly – if guiltily – entertaining. The levels of sadistic violence to man and beast, the quantity of cranial splatter, the cheerful immorality and the borderline misogyny (the female characters are all cyphers, horrible, or both) may leave a bad taste in the mouth for some, though. In general, though, this is a very silly action movie whose only real message is that if you’re going to base your assassination agency around looking at bits of cloth, no good will come of it. And I think we can all learn something from that.

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