Assassin-ine fun

 

This is the “Dilbert” panel I’ve always wanted to see.

A fed-up office drone, sick of the confines of his cubicle, unleashes holy hell on his condescending superiors and clocks a duplicitous colleague in the jaw with his keyboard and heads out for adventure with Angelina Jolie.

While “Wanted’s” lead Wesley (played by James McAvoy) does just that, his character is taken from a different comic altogether. It’s comic origins (based on one by Mark Millar and J. G. Jones) are felt throughout the film’s reality-relinquishing first hour, until it turns on itself in the final act and decides to play things with a straight face.

If only Cat-bert could have sauntered in to slap some sense into him.

Let’s start with the good.

Wesley’s life is torn straight from the pages of “Office Space:” a patronizing supervisor takes special glee in the daily ass-chewing she gives the young man, a co-worker enjoys showing Wesley’s girlfriend his “O” face (if that line makes no sense to you, please go rent the aforementioned comedy); and his anxiety level is suppressed only with the help of a bottomless prescription jar of medication.

On a particular day to refill said meds, Wesley’s found himself in the middle of a pharmacy shootout, aided by a slinky Angelina Jolie.

One fabulously outrageous car chase later (in which Wesley is literally scooped up into her shiny red sports car), the young man is told that he is the son of a recently deceased world-famous assassin and who has been selected to step into his shoes.

It’s a cinematic flip-of-the-bird to any and all potential “blockbusters” this summer and, for a while, it revs along at such a high rate of speed that it could mean business.

There are many reasons for this. Primarily, lead McAvoy (a British actor known best stateside in the original “Chronicles of Narnia” and “Atonement,” but whose range is best demonstrated in a little 80s-centric indie called “Starter for Ten”) is such an engaging host to this frenetic freak-out. As someone who starts off with as a whiny Zack Braff clone, he is heartily believable in his transformation into a hitman resembling a young Russel Crowe. In a film that defies all laws of physics, gravity and logic, his performance in an undercurrent of stability.

Jolie takes her second role this month as a tigress – first, quite literally in “Kung Fu Panda,” and here as a felonious feline known only (and quite accurately) as Fox. Sure, it’s a role she can do in her sleep, but, honestly, I have no problem watching anything Jolie does in her sleep.

And, finally, step aside Borat. You are no longer the “it boy” of Kazakhstan.

Those honors go to one Timur Bekmambetov, director of this otherworldly fever-dream of an action film.

Lauded in his homeland for the candy-coated action vampire films “Night Watch” and “Day Watch” (and the upcoming “Twilight Watch”), Bekmambetov has come to the states to show that not all Kazakhstanis arrive in the summer sun sporting hideously green one-piece thongs. Very nice! High five-a!

Well, almost.

Once Wesley arrives for training, he’s informed by the head assassin (played with the usual omnipotent solemnity by Morgan Freeman) that his pop was part of a group steeped in tradition handed down from ancient weavers. That’s right, Wesley is a fruit of the loom. As part of his training, the young lad gets worked over by various other co-workers/thugs with names like “the Repairman” and “the Butcher,” (no sight of “the Candlestick-maker,” though), until he’s ready for his first assignment – killing the man who toe-tagged his father.

And while there are some stunning sights of bullet bending, train-hopping and skull-piercing, Bekmambetov drops the pitch-black humor that elevated the first half and shifts the film into a dour-faced, dime-a-dozen climax that runs out of gas far before the carnage-heavy conclusion. (There are only so many different ways to film a bullet being deflected mid-air by another bullet, and the director tries them all, with diminishing results.)

Like all summer action sagas, it’s best not to let the brain stew too long on the whole “moral” of the story, as it is one that takes Wesley from zero to hero by his creativity in killing random people for no reason other than being told to do so by an ancient weaving machine (somehow, that dog barking orders to the Son of Sam does not seem so unorthodox).

But for a short while, “Wanted” does engage in some contagious calamity that keeps us locked and loaded for the next round.

~ by usesoapfilm on June 30, 2008.

2 Responses to “Assassin-ine fun”

  1. Wait, I had no idea this was from a comic originally. Was it a graphic novel? Because if so, I can finaly justify seeing it (thesis) without succumbing to my insane McAvoy crush.

  2. Comic. Though I had a conversation with a friend about this, one person’s comic is another’s graphic novel. Just like calling dolls “action figures” to justify one’s manhood. I am comfortable enough in myself to admit I played with lots of Star Wars dolls in my life.

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