It’s been nine long years since the release of The Matrix, but did the makers of Wanted think we completely forgot? See if this sounds familiar: a lonely, white caller worker is recruited by a mysterious femme fatale to join a secret society (that is ruled by an older man with a deep, foreboding voice) and learns the real truth about the world we live in. Instead of Keanu Reeves, we get star-on-the-rise James McAvoy. Rather than Carrie-Ann Moss, we get Angelina Jolie (ever heard of her?) Substitute Laurence Fishburne for Morgan Freeman and, instead of a secret club bent on overcoming world domination from a pack of machines, we get a small community of assassins living in a fraternity called…The Fraternity. With its emphasis on flamboyant special effects, and ample gun play, Wanted plays like The Matrix without the sci-fi angle (I half expected the end credits to read: Based on a Better Movie by The Wachowski Brothers).
McAvoy has a following and is said to make the ladies swoon (thanks, but I’ll take island boy Keanu Reeves any day.) Jolie is a great actress, but here she has a role less interesting than the one-dimensional babe she played in Gone in 60 Seconds and Tomb Raider. Freeman’s appearance, on the other hand, is puzzling. His role as an intimidating, foul-mouthed (yes, the “March of the Penguins” narrator drops a few F-bombs!) henchman is a perfect fit for Samuel L. Jackson but feels wrong for a magnificent actor who is arguably best known for playing God twice in the last five years.
The movie itself is blood-soaked, long, highly profane, incredibly silly, crude and not terribly original (in short, it’s this summer’s Swordfish.) On the other hand, a few of the action sequences will get hearts racing. One in particular involves a train, one of the most amazing things I’ve seen all year. The ending suggests a sequel-ready franchise; unlike The Matrix, however, the violence is sometimes hard to take, the special effects are over-the-top and obvious, and, unlike the story of Neo, Wanted isn’t about anything beyond how stylish movie violence can look. Whoa. MTW