Wanted is action overload for high-octane adrenaline junkies. The summer probably didn't need another loud, wham-bam slam-bang action movie with no regard for plot, but here it is, and rest assured the thrills are satisfying. Think Fight Club with more visual effects and a story with zero point.
Wesley (James McAvoy) lives a drab life as an accountant with an obnoxious boss (Lorna Scott), a floozy girlfriend (Kristin Hager) and a best friend (Chris Pratt) who doesn't deserve him. All is dull until he meets Fox (Angelina Jolie), who saves him from assassination in a supermarket and takes him on a ridiculous car chase sequence that's really quite fun.
After a taste of action, Wesley wants more. Fox takes him to meet Sloan (Morgan Freeman), the leader of a thousand-year-old group called the Fraternity, a band of assassins intent on maintaining world order. "Kill one and maybe save a thousand" is the code of the Fraternity, logically flawed as it is. How they keep order by killing, and how they learn whom to kill, is probably the dumbest thing in an action movie in quite some time, and that's saying a lot.
The villain is Cross (Thomas Kretschmann), whom Wesley is told killed his father and is coming after him Terminator style, i.e., with unrelenting remorse. So Fox and company—which includes Gunsmith (rapper Common), Repairman (Marc Warren) and the Butcher (Dato Bakhtadze)—train Wesley in a hyper-realistic way to curve bullets, ride on top of trains and endure excruciating pain while learning to kill.
Director Timur Bekmambetov's (Nightwatch) movie is very stylishly made, with a lot of slow motion, blurred vision and truly superb special effects keeping the visceral thrills top notch. Though the violence gets a bit graphic at times, the blood splatter is never so aggressively vulgar that you'll have to look away. A train derailment is quite impressive, as is Wesley's gleefully nihilistic run through a factory that mixes rock music, slow motion and guns-a-blazin' destruction in a sequence that is the epitome of great shoot 'em up action.
Too bad the script by Michael Brandt, Chris Morgan and Derek Haas (based on the Mark Millar/J.G. Jones comic books) doesn't hold up its end of the bargain. With a $65 million budget, some of the money should've gone to hiring a decent writer who could string a story together. Although we like Wesley, Cross has no motivation until the end, at which point it feels contrived and easy. And it's worth repeating that the aforementioned way the Fraternity learns whom to kill is beyond stupid. There's also too much of the typical training, "realize your long-hidden abilities" minutiae that we've seen done better countless times before.
Still, there's something to be said for seeing two bullets collide in mid-air. It's ironic that a movie so visually creative could be so inane in other equally important ways. Of course, you go to Wanted for the thrills, but don't lose sight of the fact that those thrills would be better with a decent story behind them.