I believe it was William Goldman who once observed that movie stars are "totally worthless and absolutely essential." And so it goes with Wanted, and if the frat boy wannabes over at Maxim magazine don't think this is the coolest movie ever, well, I guess they're not so easily stereotyped after all.
I wanted to out-and-out like the movie, but it doesn't make it easy. There are some intractabilities, inherent and otherwise. First of all, the protagonist is described as a "milquetoast office worker," not so dissimilar from the reaper who works for Mrs. Herbig in Dead Like Me. He may be milquetoast on the outside, but he's a raging ball of disgruntlement on the inside. By fortunate coincidence, assassination is in his family lineage and fate jolts him out of his rut so that he may follow his true destiny. His name is Wesley Gibson, and he spends his day at the office Googling his name. Oh, how the internet has ruined everything. First head-scratcher: everyone's name should by now, at least in 2008, bring up one innocuous document or another, especially a movie name like Wesley Gibson. (As of this writing, 286,000 hits, 35,500 without 'Wanted') Even a moniker and a half like director Timur Bekmembatov gets 199!
Not to give too much away, but yes, it's one of those multi-layered movies that you have to watch at least one more time because of the intricate plot. Thanks a lot, The Sixth Sense! Second head-scratcher: when Wesley joins "The Fraternity," he gets a large sum of money into his account, money that his newly deceased dad that he never knew left him: okay, it's about $3.5 million. Unfortuantely for Wesley, it's not in Euros. Not enough to buy an NFL team, but nothing to sneeze at, either.
Now, you're probably asking yourself, hey, Movie Hooligan! This is the post-Matrix era. Can this ragtag band of killers defy the normal laws of gravity that you and I labor under? Why, YES! Apparently, if you shoot a gun, holding it like you're slapping someone upside the head with it, the bullets can curve around objects! So that high school calculus class you took comes in handy after all. And, like Kung Fu Hustle and Starship Troopers before it, Wanted features a Special Movie Healing gimmick: a bath that looks like white donut glaze that cures all. My friend who I always watch movies with complained when they stab Wesley in the hand with a rather large knife, which in real life could do serious damage. It would probably kill you, or at least paralyze your hand. I tried to explain to them that it's a movie, and that they have the Wile E. Coyote Health Insurance Plan, but they wouldn't have any of it. Also noting that the amount of times Wesley gets punched in the face by a big guy could wreak havoc on the ol' cheek bones, rendering him worse than Movie Ugly, going right to just plain un-filmable. A focus puller's worst nightmare. I bring up Starship Troopers because it's the only movie I know of where Jake Busey gets half-crucified in one hand with a knife, but is perfectly A-OK in the very next scene. Maybe Contact or The Frighteners, I forget.
Welp, I can see that I'm rambling on a lot longer than I cared to on this topic, but I will say that that train crash in the mountains was pretty spectacular if I do say so myself. Made up for the one in Spider Man 2, big time. But for me, the letdown half of the movie felt like I was being indoctrinated into the Russian mafia. But hey! At least they use artisan bullets! The main thing being: their Carpe Diem sentiments should be taken with a larger than normal grain of salt: I may have wasted my life, but this movie doesn't exactly make me regret that! They further threaten to make the anti-wuss memes boring. Oh, and Morgan Freeman gets to have a Samuel L. Jackson moment, so that must've been gratifying. But I will say that when he takes his bullet... bad acting, man. You won't have to give the Oscar back, but still. IMHO.
-so sayeth the Movie Hooligan