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Posts Tagged ‘Timur Bekmambetov’

I have commented in the past on the dangers of giving your movie a punchy, catchy one-word title: other people may have the same idea, which can be terribly confusing. Twilight, Steel, Roadkill: all of these titles have been round the block a few times and have wildly different movies squabbling over possession of them.

Short titles can be equally problematic: just now I noticed that The Black Hole was on TV, but rather than the 1979 Gary Nelson stellar-conflict knock-off, it turned out to be a Ken Badish Z-movie with Kristy Swanson. In a similar vein, I wonder how many people are going to check into their favourite streaming site and decide to watch The Darkest Hour, comfortably settling down to enjoy an Oscar-winning turn from Gary Oldman, oblivious to the fact that they have actually made a fairly significant mistake?

Not that this is likely to long remain the case, for I cannot imagine anyone watching much of Chris Gorak’s 2011 movie The Darkest Hour and long remaining under the impression it is Joe Wright’s 2017 movie Darkest Hour. One of these films has an embattled Winston Churchill trying to keep the cause of liberty and freedom alive. The other features attractive young people being chased around Moscow by invisible monsters. A definite article can make a big difference sometimes.

These days it’s a little hard to imagine a US-Russian co-production quite as brazenly commercial as this one, but there you go, the past is another country. (As is Russia. Presumably the past of Russia is several different countries simultaneously, but I’ve no idea how that would work.) Prime mover behind this enterprise appears to have been Timur Bekmambetov, reigning nutcase behind such family favourites as Wanted, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and the remake of Ben-Hur, and though someone else is left to do the actual directing, followers of the Bekmambetov oeuvre will know more or less what to expect.

Things get underway with aspiring young American entrepreneurs Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella), who arrive in Moscow (everyone uses the American pronunciation, by the way) to try and find investors for their new website-stroke-app. But zounds! It turns out their perfidious Swedish business partner, Skyler – is this a common Swedish name? – has done the dirty on them and ripped off their idea. (The evil Swede is played by Joel Kinnaman, by the way.)

To drown their sorrows, Sean and Ben retire to a swanky nightclub where they meet feisty backpackers Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (Rachael Taylor). You know, I wasn’t aware that Moscow was such a hub on the international backpacking scene, but it just goes to show you. Even Skyler ends up in the same club, where he is as objectionable as earlier.

But then! Following a mysterious power failure, everyone stumbles out into the street to see strange aurorae appearing over Moscow, and swirls of glowing light raining down onto the city. It all looks very pretty, until it becomes apparent that the swirly light things are all people can perceive of vicious alien gits intent on invading the city and disintegrating everyone in their path. There’s only one thing for an appealing young ensemble cast to do at a time like this – hide in the cellar for a day and a night!

Making their rather cautious return to the streets 36 hours later, our heroes discover that Moscow is largely deserted, with everyone either having fled or been eaten by the invisible alien monsters. Everyone decides to go to the US embassy (even the Australian and Swedish characters), but what hope is there, with aliens still on the prowl and no apparent hope of escape…?

Anyway, The Darkest Hour is an example of the kind of middle-of-the-road genre movie which occasionally slips past me at a busy time of the year: I didn’t see it back when it came out, and can’t remember a particular reason why not. Must just have been occupied with other stuff – this is certainly the kind of film I can imagine me going to see, what with it being an alien invasion SF-horror movie and all. I may have been persuaded to knock it down my list of priorities by the notices it drew at the time, which ran a fairly negative gamut from tepid to eviscerating.

This is understandable, as – and perhaps you have been able to glean this from the customary synopsis – The Darkest Hour is unlikely ever to win any awards for its blazing originality, in any department. The capsule description of this movie – ‘the one with the invisible monsters in Moscow’ – also contains every distinctive feature that it possesses, with the possible exception of the fact that it scores unexpectedly high on the ‘on their way to very slightly better things’ department – Olivia Thirlby went on to appear in Dredd (in addition to some TV stuff), Rachael Taylor has carved out a tiny niche for herself sort-of playing Hellcat in the Marvel TV shows, Joel Kinnaman later found work in the Robocop remake and Suicide Squad, and so on.

B-movies are not what they used to be. It used to be the case that in a B-movie you were more or less guaranteed substandard, or (let’s be charitable) overambitious special effects, but you kept your fingers crossed that the film-makers would do their best to make up for this by using their imagination and wits when it came to the script, and the actors would likewise try to compensate for giving interesting performances. These days, however, thanks to the development of cheap high-end computers, the one thing you are pretty much guaranteed in even a low-budget movie is that it will have good-looking special effects. On the other hand, your chances of happening upon a script which does more than hit the minimum benchmarks are much lower nowadays, and the cast often seem to be deliberately trying to be as anonymous as possible.

So it is with The Darkest Hour. It has one slightly curious quirk – the moss-cow setting – and one potentially interesting feature – the invasion of invisible energy beings – and while the scenes in a devastated Moscow are predictably well-staged in visual terms, the film has little else to offer beyond a formulaic runaround. It’s not that difficult to work out who amongst the original five is not going to make it to the closing credits, and in which order they’re going to get zapped, but the thing is that you don’t really care either, so thinly characterised are they. Only Olivia Thirlby demonstrates she has genuine chops as an actress by genuinely making you worry about her survival.

I’m not sure what to make of the fact that The Darkest Hour goes to all the trouble of being a Moscow-set SF movie, without including a single leading Russian character. It kind of reduces the setting to a painted backdrop, which I doubt was the intention of the Russian producers. I suppose you could argue that Gosha Kutsenko and Veronika Vernadskaya both appear in supporting roles and are very Russian indeed, almost to the point of stereotype, and that this makes up for a lot. Maybe.

In the end it doesn’t really make up for just how generic and forgettable The Darkest Hour is. Like a lot of movies at around this point in history, it was originally released in the odious 3D format, something which seems to have become slightly less common, but I doubt yet another gimmick would have helped its cause much. The thing about it is that this is one of those movies which doesn’t have a single element in it which you could genuinely call actively bad, but it’s so totally lacking in anything really distinctive and (apart from the effects and a single performance) actually accomplished that it simply fails to register in your head much. It’s not awful – being awful would actually make it more memorable. It just is, in that it exists – it just does very little more than that.

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Every family has its own little traditions; that’s part of what it means to be a family, I suppose. One of ours was that, every Christmas, someone would pore over the TV guide until we had located what time they were showing the 1959 version of Ben-Hur (they invariably were). Then, having made a careful note of exactly when it was on, we equally carefully didn’t switch on until a couple of hours later, because we were only really interested in the bit with the chariot race. I strongly get the impression that there was a similar tradition in the house of the makers of the new version of Ben-Hur, because in some ways this whole film feels like the work of people who are only really interested in the bit with the chariots.

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Yeah, they’ve actually gone and done a remake of Ben-Hur, bemusing though the decision is. Has the well of inspiration really run so dry? Is nothing safe from the curse of the pointless reimagining? What next, a remake of Jaws? A remake of West Side Story? A remake of Back to the Future? A remake of The Magnificent Seven? (Oh, hang on a minute.) Showing a rather sweet naivety, everyone involved insists this is a new adaptation of the Lew Wallace novel and has nothing to do with the other film versions (there have been several) whatsoever, in the apparent belief this means their movie will not be compared to death with the 1959 film, one of the most famous and successful films of all time. Good luck with that, guys.

The plot is, obviously, rather familiar: Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) is a privileged Jewish prince in the first century AD, no particular friend to the occupying Romans, but not intent on driving them out either: he just wants a quiet life. Things are complicated by the fact his adopted brother Messala (Toby Kebbell) is an ambitious Roman officer, and the time eventually comes when Ben-Hur must make a choice between loyalty to his brother and his people. He opts for the latter, and as a result finds himself framed for an attack on the Roman governor. His mother and sister are imprisoned and he is packed off to become a galley slave.

Still, you can’t keep a good Hur down, and one nightmarish sea battle later he is loose and working as a vet for charioteering impressario Ilderim (Morgan Freeman), all the while pondering how to exact vengeance against Messala, despite his wife’s pleas for him to move on (Mrs Ben-Hur is played by Nazanin Boniadi). Then Ilderim comes up with an idea for a way for Ben-Hur to safely take on Messala – and wouldn’t you know, it involves a chariot race…

I’m sure that many people outside my family also basically think that the chariot race sequence is the sine qua non of the 1959 version of Ben-Hur – well, whether it is or not, you could argue that in some ways it definitely is of this new film. The chariot race is in the poster, the film opens with a taster of the climactic race sequence, which is heavily foreshadowed throughout the first two acts of the film, and the closing credits are animated so the names of cast and crew gallop around the circus amidst clouds of dust. The problem is that if you’re going to pitch your movie so much on the strength of one set-piece sequence, it’s really got to be something special – and while the race here is good, it’s not great, not least because it’s so clearly been achieved with CGI where the 1959 race was staged ‘for real’.

Then again, doing stuff with CGI is the speciality of director Timur Bekmambetov, who is in charge on this occasion. Bekmambetov is the guy who gave the world Wanted, a demented thriller about superpowered assassins acting at the behest of precognitive knitting, along with Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter, a film which is every bit as strange as it sounds. Unfortunately something about this project seems to have cowed Bekmambetov a bit, for his usual irrepressible insanity is nowhere to be seen and, apart from during the sea battle and the chariot race, his style is rather anonymous and pedestrian.

But the overall impression one takes away from the new Ben-Hur is of a small film with aspirations to be a big one. Morgan Freeman is the only cast member most people will have heard of, and he goes all-out to provide some gravitas. Jack Huston is clearly trying his socks off too but there is no avoiding the fact that he is in the shadow of a colossus with no chance of escape. Whatever you think of Charlton Heston’s politics, he was one of the most charismatic film stars of all time, and he had more screen presence in one of his earlobes than Huston has in his entire body.

Nobody else makes much of an impression either, except, perhaps, Toby Kebbell. Kebbell has made something of a career out of doing bad guy roles where his face is never seen – he was an evil chimp in the last Planet of the Apes film and Dr Doom in the calamitous version of Fantastic Four last year – and actually appearing on screen must have been a nice change for him. Good though he is, his slight resemblance to a Vernon Kay who’s worried that Tess has been checking his SMS history again was rather distracting for me.

Messala is a rather more sympathetic and less malevolent character in this version of the film, which has had various nips and tucks performed on the plot, removing some elements of the plot entirely and building others up. This isn’t truly a grandiose epic of the old school, but something clearly aspiring to be grounded and emotionally real, with a predictably hard modern edge.

And perhaps something more too… In many ways the new Ben-Hur reminded me of Risen, a fairly obscure film I saw earlier this year which purported to be another sword-and-sandal drama, but actually turned out to be some sort of evangelical tract. There’s money in the Christian movie-going audience, provided you can get them on side. Hence we have a message about the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than vengeance, a conclusion I can only describe as sappy, and – perhaps most significantly – a rather bigger role for Jesus in the story. Jesus is played by Rodrigo Santoro, an interesting choice given he is probably best known for playing the huge-and-jingly-and-rather-suspect god-king-villain in the 300 movies. Still, he does a perfectly fine job, and if we can have a Maori Jesus, why not a Brazilian one?

Unfortunately, it’s quite hard to get people to accept your film is about a Christian message of redemption and forgiveness when it’s being marketed almost entirely on the strength of one balls-to-the-wall CGI action sequence, and this may explain why this new version of Ben-Hur just hasn’t been doing the business at the box office. I’m not really surprised, because this is one of those films where virtually everyone’s first reaction to learning it exists is ‘Really?!? What’s the point?’

This film isn’t a disaster and it does have things of merit in it – but its general aura of redundancy, and the fact it clearly can’t decide whether it’s aimed at mainstream action movie fans or the Christian audience, result in something that’s a fairly lacklustre and colourless experience. Or, to put it another way: liked Ben, not so keen on Hur.

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I was moved to ponder, not long ago, the somewhat vexed issue of whether it might not be a good idea to institute a licensing system whereby film-makers, etc, would not be permitted to use a really good title unless they could first prove they were capable of doing it justice. This idea may have first crept into my head in the summer of 2009, when I wandered into a branch of a well-known bookseller and happened upon Seth Grahame-Smith (‘and Jane Austen’)’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Another winning title, embodying a genuinely funny concept. Unfortunately the book itself was, possibly predictably, and certainly appropriately, rotten.

And so I approached Timur Bekmambetov’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter with a level of misgiving. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies did well enough to prompt a slew of similarly improbable mash-ups, ranging from Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, to (good grief) Android Karenina. Grahame-Smith himself knocked out Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and has written and exec-produced the movie. So, cause for apprehension there. On the other hand, this film is a product of the same creative vision that gave us the rampantly insane excess of Wanted, an everyday tale of weaver-hitmen and their precognitive loom that did more than any other to epitomise the summer of 2008 for me. So this is a movie which looked like it might go either way.

Perhaps it takes a director of Kazakh origin, like Timur Bekmambetov, to cast such a new and original light on one of the most central and iconic figures in American history. But in this case I sort of doubt it. Semi-professional Liam Neeson lookee-likee Benjamin Walker plays the great man himself throughout most of his life (not the very early bits though), in a story which purports to reveal that Honest Abe actually had a few startling secrets in his hinterland. We first meet Abraham Lincoln as a lad, and even at this young age he is fiercely committed to justice, equality, fairness, etc, etc. You know the drill. Unfortunately this indirectly ends up putting his family on the wrong side of a shady character, who chooses to work his issues out by chowing down on Mrs Lincoln’s blood vessels. That’s right, he’s a vampire! Yowser! Who’d have seen that coming?

Naturally, when he grows up, Lincoln sets out to avenge his mum, only to discover he is not up to the task. He is taken in hand by the mysterious Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper), who teaches him the forbidden lore of the undead and equips him for the battles to come. To be honest, Abraham Lincoln is a back-to-basics kind of vampire hunter and usually turns up packing only what is technically known as a damn great axe (with a silver edge, of course). When not thinning the ranks of the undead of Illinois, he dabbles in the law and with politics, and embarks on a rather sweet romance with a charming local girl (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, as winsome as ever). However, as his battle with the forces of darkness and their leader (Rufus Sewell) intensifies, he begins to realise the full extent to which the injustices of slavery are intertwined with the vampire presence in the southern states. Could it be that he will have to take a more public role if he is to fully eradicate the menace he has dedicated his life to destroying?

Well, look, before we go any further, I’m English and the limit of my knowledge of Abraham Lincoln is basically: top hat, chinstrap beard, freed slaves, Gettysburg Address, ‘Apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?’, Henry Fonda in Young Mr Lincoln, got speared to death in an episode of Star Trek. To any of our former-colonial friends reading this and feeling outraged, I would ask you to supply a brief essay on the life of Oliver Cromwell (not derived from Wikipedia) with your complaints, and we’ll take it from there. What I’m basically trying to say is that I know very little about Abraham Lincoln as a historical character, which some might consider a handicap when attempting to intelligently review a Lincoln biopic.

However, as you may have possibly surmised, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is not strictly a by-the-book biopic. In fact, I suspect that a few people would consider the depiction of Lincoln as an axe-twirling bad-ass warrior to be tasteless and/or monumentally absurd. I’m not convinced about the former but it is certainly the latter. This film is impossible to take seriously, but – and this is the key thing – Bekmambetov seems to be fully aware of this, which stops proceedings from becoming actually annoying. The main problem I had with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was that it took an idea which was an amusing concept in its own right, and felt the need to try and funny it up by actually playing it for laughs, inserting rather creaky old jokes. The great strength of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is that it’s played absolutely straight (or at least as straight as possible, given it features the President of the USA standing on top of a moving train hitting vampires with an axe) – one never gets a sense of the director or writer winking at you and going ‘Ho ho, isn’t this wacky?’

Most of the time this works really well, particularly in the opening part of the film, which deals with Lincoln’s years before he rose to prominence. For a while it even seems as if Bekmambetov is trying to handle the historical biography as painstakingly as the action-horror, because there are a few non-vampire-hunting scenes which go on for what feel like a surprisingly long time. Problems start to set in, however, when Lincoln actually becomes president and grows the beard (both of these happen off-screen, the latter not surprisingly) – and all of a sudden we’re into the historical events of the American Civil War. Now, it may possibly be that my lack of familiarity with US history is to blame, but it seemed to me that the film was taking my comprehension of what was happening for granted here. There’s also the more serious point that the film is dealing with the deaths of real people – real people from 150 years ago, admittedly, but even so. As a silly romp the film is enjoyable stuff, but attempts to hit genuine notes of pathos and human drama just feel very uncomfortable and misjudged when they occur. Thankfully the film returns to its previously nonsensical vein for an appropriately uproarious finale.

Ultimately this is a very silly film, but the actors hurl themselves into it with impressive gusto, and the CGI-slathered recreation of 19th century America looks appealing. Bekmambetov indulges himself in his usual visually-inventive but utterly implausible action-business – fun to look at but not remotely convincing – for example, a chase through the middle of a stampede, the train fight, and so on. This is not a great action film, not a great horror movie, and (you’ll be surprised to hear) not the greatest telling of the story of President No.16 ever made, and it has nothing like the breathtakingly in-your-face bonkersness of Wanted (nor even, it must be said, that film’s inventiveness of plot). But Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is, for the most part, a fun and amusing piece of work which just about earns its right to such a catchy title.

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As the damp cold of Autumn replaces the damp cold of Summer with all the inevitability of an Inbetweeners sequel being announced, one thing at least can stir the spirits and perk up even the most jaded filmgoer: at least we get a quirkier class of genre movie this time of year. Doing its best to be several things at once is Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego’s Apollo 18, a this-ain’t-gonna-fool-anyone mockumentary about the titular moon mission. (Insert your own joke about missing the first four sequels to the Tom Hanks movie here if you really must – I nearly did.)

What’s that you say? Apollo 17 was the final manned moon launch? Ho ho, think again. Supposedly made up entirely of footage shot by people involved in the mission, principally the three astronauts, this movie reveals that in 1974 the go-ahead was given for another, classified mission, carried out in secret under the auspices of the US Department of Defence. The initial stated objective is to set up surveillance equipment at the south lunar pole to monitor Soviet activity.

The flight and landing go according to plan but the lunar module crew find their sojourn on the moon plagued with small, inexplicable equipment failures and other odd happenings. But all these are instantly forgotten when they discover the remains of an unreported Soviet moon mission, including the corpse of a cosmonaut who has died in very strange circumstances indeed…

Well, from this point the film follows a fairly predictable arc – grim revelations as to the true nature of the mission, contact, contagion, paranoia, madness, and carnage – and the SF horror element of the plot is really nothing very original. To this extent the movie operates very much in the shadow of Alien, and it’s possibly just a bit too vague about the nature of exactly what the astronauts discover on the lunar surface (some of the CGI is perhaps not quite up to the highest standards, either).

However, the movie scores very heavily when it comes to verisimilitude. Historically, opinion has been divided about how easy it is to convincingly fake a moon landing in a film studio, but the film-makers do a very neat job indeed. Do you emerge believing they shot it on location in orbit? No, of course not – but your disbelief is comfortably put, if not into zero gravity, then at least one-sixth G. The period setting is also skilfully and credibly achieved.

Things are helped by the innately claustrophobic and primitive nature of early Seventies space technology. One possibly unintended consequence of this movie is that I emerged with a much greater appreciation of the tremendous courage of the genuine Apollo astronauts for doing what they did – I also found myself wondering why the actual Apollo 11 flight hasn’t been the subject of a movie yet, as it would surely be at least as engrossing as a genre movie like this, no matter how well it’s been made.

Oh well. You’re never in much doubt as to how this story’s going to unfold, but Lopez-Gallego’s direction and the performances of the actors playing the astronauts (Warren Christie and Lloyd Owen carry most of the action) make this an entertainingly creepy and uncomfortable movie to watch. It is, in the end, a movie built around a brilliant conceit, which tells its story in a very effective way. A good movie to sit on the ‘Truth about NASA’ shelf next to Capricorn One and Alternative Three, but a fun movie in its own right as well.

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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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