Wanted

The Nominations:

  • Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Achievement in Sound Mixing

The Black-and-White:

A review by SpacedCowboy

I am reminded of a similarly misunderstood movie, “The Quick and the Dead”, staring Sharon Stone. A 1995 movie, this entree may be beyond the memories of most readers of this scribe. The movie was forgettable, and yet, almost 14 years later, I still remember it vividly. Why? It was one of the first movies that made me groan, and then made me think, and then made me, finally, see and understand. And to be clear: Sharon Stone did this (with some help from Gene Hackman and Russell Crowe), and she did it without ever crossing, or uncrossing, her legs.

Satire and parody are plentiful. Many great movies have parodied those who have gone before, and they have done it with flair and elan. I’m thinking of “Blazing Saddles”, “Canadian Bacon”, “The Freshman”, “Slap Shot”, everything by Leslie Neilson, and, at its pinnacle, “Top Secret!”

Here is the plot synopsis for “Wanted” from imdb.com:

A young man finds out his long lost father is an assassin. When his father is murdered, the son is recruited into his father’s old organization and trained by a man named Sloan to follow in his dad’s footsteps.

The anxious, clumsy and abused office clerk Wesley Allan Gibson has a hell and boring routine life: his obese boss humiliates him all the time and his girlfriend betrays him with his colleague and best friend during working period. When he meets the sexy Fox, Wesley is informed that his father was a professional killer that belonged to an ancient organization called Fraternity and killed by the skilled and powerful Cross, a hit-man that has betrayed the Fraternity. Wesley learns that his anxiety actually is a manifestation of his latent abilities and he joins the society under the command of Sloan. Trained by Fox, he changes his personality and attitude, being prepared to face the dangerous Cross and find a hidden secret. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

To be clear, “Wanted” was loosely adapted from a comic book of the same name. I’m not familiar with the comic, but I understand the movie went far from the source material.

I was initially confused as I watched the movie, as it seemed to me I was watching elements of so many movies I had seen before. It was initially so annoying that I started to make a list. As the movie progressed, however, it became a fun game to try and recognize the nods to the greats, and then the movie became flat out fun. Here are the movies I recognized in “Wanted”:

  • Office Space
  • The Matrix (lots of Matrix homages in this film)
  • Highlander
  • Jaws
  • Rocky
  • Tomb Raider
  • Karate Kid
  • Crouching Tiger / Hidden Dragon
  • Da Vinci Code
  • National Treasure
  • Mission Impossible
  • Star Wars
  • Harry Potter
  • Batman

I think the general public, and movie reviewers alike, struggled with this movie as they collectively didn’t know what to make of it. Some of the snippets of reviews I found on wikipedia reflect this:

Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly encapsulated many critics’ views, saying “‘Wanted’ is kind of unintelligible and idiotic. Also kind of nasty and brutish. And also undeniably kind of fun…”[27] Likewise, Tom Long of The Detroit News said, “Wanted may be the most absolutely stone bonkers, crazy-good movie of the century. Or it may be a gargantuan piece of trash. Chances are it’s a combination of the two. But man, does it rock”.[28] Claudia Puig of USA Today found the “thrilling stunts and hyperkinetic action scenes [to be] the undisputed stars of this surprisingly entertaining film”.[29] Conversely, John Rosenblatt of The Austin Chronicle denounced those same attributes, saying, “If Maxim magazine ever decides to branch out into filmmaking, Wanted is just the kind of ear-throttling nonsense it’s bound to produce”,[30] and David Fear of Time Out New York called it “the cinematic equivalent of an energy drink. The film keeps artificially pumping your adrenal glands with mindless, malnutritional sensations, only to leave you crampy and cranky minutes later. …[T]his exercise in ultraviolence then insults us by having a beaten, bloodied McAvoy inform viewers that he used to be a loser ‘just like all of you'”.[31] Frank Lovece of Film Journal International, one of few mainstream critics to have read the comic-book miniseries, said the film compared poorly with the source material. Noting that the hero in the comic goes even further, “breaking the fourth wall and positioning himself so that he’s ‘prison-raping’ and taunting the reader for having liked the series,” Lovece found that, “While Millar may have contempt for his readers — and, by extension, the medium in which he works — at least he has his own vision, and gets it across with style and wit” that the movie lacked.[32] Roger Ebert of Ebert & Roeper said “‘Wanted’ slams the pedal to the metal and never slows down. Here’s an action picture that’s exhausting in its relentless violence and its ingenuity in inventing new ways to attack, defend, ambush and annihilate”[33] while Richard Roeper said “It’s made for fans of films that really just want to see some great visuals, some amazing sequences and some terrific performances.”[34]

In the comics press, Erik Amaya of Comic Book Resources said, “The film’s biggest faults lie in how far it strays from the source”, and that, “If you’ve ever seen any movie about leather-clad assassins, you already know how this film plays out. The speed and skill of the movie-making balance out those faults, however”.[35] Tom McLean of Newsarama noted that while the story deviated strongly from the source, the movie “stands out as a highly entertaining action film that preserves the comic’s core premise and cheeky attitude while taking the story into very different but still satisfying territory.”[36]

Among European critics, Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian said, “It looks as if it has been written by a committee of 13-year-old boys for whom penetrative sex is still only a rumour, and the resulting movie plays like a party political broadcast on behalf of the misogynist party”, concluding, “In an ideal world, the title would have the word ‘Not’ tacked on to the front.”[37]

Here’s what I think: yes, some folks with the vision of a 13 year old crafted, shot and produced this story. And in doing so, they “begged, borrowed and stole” some of the brilliant elements of action movies loosely in this genre, but they did so in a way that we, the audience, weren’t sure if they meant to, or if it was serious, or if it was a huge tongue-in-cheek film.

I prefer the latter interpretation. They meant to make fun of every action movie they could, and in doing so, pay homage to the timeless moments in all of them. With these rose-colored glasses on, I can faithfully say … this was an OK movie. Not great. Not awful. If my interpretation is correct, it was far too subtle to enjoy widespread success in communicating its purpose. And if I am wrong, well, then it was just a very, very, very  silly movie.

But on the topic of nominations: the nods for sound editing and sound mixing were more than deserved. Looking at the competition in these categories, I’m thinking “Wanted” has an uphill battle against “The Dark Knight” (blech), “Slumdog” and “Wall-E”, but, all the vagueries of the story notwithstanding, these nominations are very, very well deserved.

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3 Responses to Wanted

  1. […] Wanted New review today: “Wanted“ […]

  2. […] Wanted New review today: “Wanted“ […]

  3. ladyoscar23 says:

    It’s interesting that you should mention “The Quick and the Dead,” since I was just thinking of it in the context of one of this year’s nominees. There are some actors and actresses who have “it”, that spark that makes you watch them in every scene they are in, while others who are objectively at least as attractive are simply pleasant wallpaper.

    When I saw “The Quick and the Dead” I already knew who Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman were, but the other characters who stuck in my mind were “The Preacher” and “The Kid”. Though their names meant nothing to me at the time, they turned out to be Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio. I was reminded of this when thinking of _The Dark Knight_ because from last year’s contender _3:10 to Yuma_ I remembered Russell Crowe’s outlaw, and only realized Christian Bale was in the movie from looking him up on IMDB.

    Despite the fact that she’s been in a number of movies that kind of sucked, I think Angelina Jolie is one of the actresses with “it”….

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