<! this is just a line spacer>
<! pre preserves exact line breaks and spacing> <! ... here if you don't want the directed by sidebox on the left with the actor's names>
Any film that begins with a title that says, "One Thousand Years Ago A Society of Weavers Formed a Secret Group of Assassins Called The Fraternity," has to get my attention. Weavers? Is this going to be something on The Discovery Channel about the real origin of The Loom of Fate? Well, yes and no. It's also, in fact mostly, in fact totally, about a group of world-wide assassins working today to carry out what the loom tells them, which is in fact the name of the next person to be killed. Their motto is, "Kill One, Save a Thousand." Somehow, as Roger Ebert said in his review, they missed Hitler and Stalin. But no matter.
They're led by Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie, showing most of her tattoos for the first time in a film. Wait, let's go back. The hero of "Wanted" is James McAvoy, as Wesley, a tortured wimp of an accountant who hates his boss, is being cuckolded by his best friend, and has no money. Wait; let's go back even more, to the first shot of the film, where an assassin waiting on a rooftop shoots a man with a slow-motion bullet taking about a minute to get to him, then exploding at the same rate with his head flying just about everywhere. It turns out that that man is Wesley's father, whom Wesley thought had left him when he was just one week old. And now Wesley is asked to join The Fraternity to avenge him and kill the man who did his father.
But wait even more. The story comes from a graphic novel, what was once called a comic book if you haven't been around for a while, and the film is directed by Timur Bekmambetov, the Russian who made that strange pair of films "Night Watch" and "Day Watch," also about two groups, call them daytimers and nighttimers, who must maintain a balance in the world between good and evil. Bekmambetov has all the chops to do exquisite things with CGI and slow-motion, and for the most part he ramps up the action in "Wanted" so that we're more concerned with poor Wesley who has to undergo excruciating training (think "Fight Club") before he can be let out to get his father's assassin.
Did I mention that there are also people who can bend bullets as they go on their way to the target, plus many automobile chases, plus rides along the top of the Chicago El, plus a train derailment along a trestle over what appears to be a ten-thousand-foot chasm, and an army of rats, each with a bit of explosive and a watch to set it off? As well as a complete, working drapery factory (I'll bet you forgot that these were originally weavers, didn't you?).
There is one line in "Wanted" that's hard to forget: it's when Wesley says to someone: "You're not serving mankind, you're just a thug who can bend bullets." Well, I can't do that; maybe you can.
6/27/08 <! new pasted review ends on line above>