June 20, 2008

Wanted, round 1.

Wanted "When Wanted [site] was announced as the opening night film for the Los Angeles Film Festival, there was a mild outbreak of head-scratching over the choice; why start a film festival loaded with independent and foreign film with a big-studio action movie?" writes James Rocchi at Cinematical. "The fact is that the opening-night LAFF premiere of Wanted - directed by a Kazakh director who made his name in Russia, loosely based on a series of comics by a Glasgwegian Scot, starring America's most notable movie starlet opposite a Glasgow-born lead actor and shot with Prague standing in for Chicago - doesn't say much about the LAFF as a film festival and doesn't say a single thing about LA as a real city, but it says plenty about LA as a company town with a global span. Wanted's a corporate product, but, thankfully, it's an excellent one - the two-fisted, double-barreled high-octane guilty pleasure summer action movie you've been waiting for. Wanted is speedy and spiffy and shiny as a bullet, and it's got about as much actual weight when it stops moving."

Updated through 6/26.

(Sorry for quoting your entire opening paragraph, James, but it's awfully damn good.)

"Like it or not, Wanted pretty much slams you to the back of your chair from the outset and scarcely lets up for the duration," writes Variety's Todd McCarthy.

"[T]his over-the-top, ultraviolent, hyperkinetic action thriller pretty much has it all," writes Michael Rechtshaffen in the Hollywood Reporter. Director Timur Bekmambetov "has funneled the best of the Wachowski brothers, Quentin Tarantino and contemporary Hong Kong action movies through his own wry sensibility."

"The final scenes have the feel of a sequel set-up, though that may be optimistic thinking," notes John Hazelton in Screen Daily. Another note: "[Angelina] Jolie dominates the film's marketing artwork but gets considerably less screen time than [James] McAvoy."

Will Lawrence talks with McAvoy for the Telegraph.

Updates, 6/21: "McAvoy carries his third American-accented picture - sans dialogue coach," notes Variety's Anne Thompson. "He gives the movie a believable center. And yes, these people are playing actual characters. The movie breathes. And it delivers action on a Bourne or Matrix level."

But: "For me it was pure agony to sit through - another sledge-hammer rocket slam to the castle of Good Cinema," writes Jeffrey Wells.

Updates, 6/23: "What a ride on the cyber-whoosh rapids!" exclaims David Edelstein in New York. "It takes about an hour after it's over for the heart to slow, the brain to recalibrate, and the nonsensicalness of the thing to sink in: I fell for that??? By then, you'll have already babbled to a few dozen friends and strangers, 'You gotta see this movie!!!' It's like the bighearted urge to share your Ecstasy at a party."

In the New Yorker, Anthony Lane imagines Bekmambetov making a cup of coffee: "My best guess, based on the evidence of the film, is that he tosses a handful of beans toward the ceiling, shoots them individually into a fine powder, leaves it hanging in the air, runs downstairs, breaks open a fire hydrant with his head, carefully directs the jet of water through the window of his apartment, sets fire to the building, then stands patiently with his mug amid the blazing ruins to collect the precious percolated drops. Don't even think about a cappuccino."

"While it's clear that this movie borrows liberally from the Wachowski's action packed bullet time virtual reality revisionism, it also incorporates much of Fight Club's insignificant rebel in a crass corporate pond philosophizing," writes Bill Gibron at PopMatters. "Together, the combination adds up to a strangely unique experience. On the one hand, you easily recognize the various references. On the other, Russian director Timur Bekmambetov uses the homage as a means of manufacturing his own incredible vision."

Updates, 6/24: Mark Millar, who wrote the series of graphic novels the film is based on, likes the adaptation and posts, "Wanted 2 [is] already being planned and they've asked me how I can develop some of the other stuff from the book into the sequel. We'll see what box office is like at the weekend, but everyone knows this is going to make a lot of dough... Wall-E permitting. Fucking bastard of a wee robot." Via Elizabeth Rappe at Cinematical.

"Wanted is as stylish as it is foolish, but it's got one thing going for it: exploding rats." Jürgen Fauth.

Updates, 6/26: "Even with a well-deserved R rating - the Red Cross should develop funnels to catch all the zero-gravity splatter floating in the movie's screen space - Wanted is the most juvenile of the summer's superhero movies, and in some ways the most up-front about its stunted playground machismo (the source of Fight Club's irony)," writes Jim Ridley in the Voice. "This is a boy's, boy's world.... Women figure into the story as either obstacles or turncoats. The battle cry here is 'Grow a pair,' and there's no more blood-boiling insult than being called a pussy - which is bizarre, since the most lethal ass-kicker on call is a woman."

On that note: "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," grumbles the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw. 1 star.

"Now this is how you start a summer movie," begins Nick Schager in Slant. "None of this season's action extravaganzas have yet to match this film's icebreaker, but then again, neither does anything else in this adaptation of Mark Millar and JG Jones's graphic novel. The hazard of early gratification is raised expectations, and though it never becomes a slog, the rest of Timur Bekmambetov's film can't muster a similar sustained high, instead delivering mildly satisfying awesomeness (of special note: a keyboard-to-the-face gag) in the course of a thoroughly clichéd story."

"Like Jolie's performance, Wanted is slick, sexy and ridiculous; if only the latest Indiana Jones adventure had been half as thrilling," writes Alonso Duralde for MSNBC.

"Wanted has everything that should be expected from a summer action movie - uncontrollable volume, gratuitous violence and sex, inane dialogue, plot holes, fast cars - and yet somehow still manages to sprinkle in animal cruelty and racism," writes Aly Semigran in the Philadelphia Weekly.

"Wanted is s a zit-riddled high-schooler's wet dream," writes Simon Abrams in the New York Press.

Ella Taylor talks with Bekmambetov for the LA Weekly.

"It's big and flashy, the ultimate example of style over substance and it's got a few car stunts and kills that I've certainly never seen before... big stupid fun, basically," writes Todd Brown at Twitch.

Online listening tip. James Rocchi talks with Bekmambetov for Cinematical.

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Posted by dwhudson at June 20, 2008 12:25 PM


I agree that Rocchi has written a fine paragraph about "Wanted," but I thought the movie was disappointing on every level. So far, I seem to be the only one, as my filmgoing companions liked it, too.

Posted by: Kathy Fennessy at June 21, 2008 9:45 AM