In my brain, Wanted was inspired when some film executives got together one night and had a few beers. During a lull in conversation, one of them said “I bet we could convince the basement-dweller demographic that anything is cool if we market it enough.” It would have inspired no small amount of chatter as the idea escalated more and more.
“Give it a bunch of flash-cuts!”
“Blood and gore! Basement dwellers love that!”
“Give him a hot girlfriend!”
“Make her a total bitch!
"...who doesn't deserve him!”
“Angelina Jolie!” (NB: Jolie lost such an enormous amount of weight for this film that I couldn’t even admire her curvy figure; in its place was the figure of an anorexic junkie, which was not helped by her heavy tattoos and disproportionately large lips.)
One of the executives woke up the next day, a bit dry and with a twinge of a headache, and reminisced on what they’d talked about. “Crazy,” he muttered “but it just might work.”
And somehow it did. Somehow, a movie that has gunfights with bullets crashing into each other not once, not twice, but four times has made a ton of money. Somehow, a movie that has at least two car chases concluding with perfectly-timed flips over obstacles has garnered almost wholehearted support from critics.
The critics astounded me the most, because I find them to be a rather elitist, negative bunch – however did they give this a pass? A movie that involves the hero, Wesley, shooting an enemy in the face, then plunging his gun into his now-unseeing eye, then dispatching the next few enemies through the gory chunks of blood and brain matter?
I don’t expect a great deal from movies. As I mentioned in earlier posts, I love fun, popcorn action flicks like Armageddon and Independence Day. I’m also a fan of similarly unrealistic romantic comedies like Must Love Dogs and essentially the entire Judd Apatow collection, so I think I can safely say that this is not the blog of a snob.
Having established that, watching Wanted was a masochistic experience that failed to even clear my low bar of taste. Like Twilight, it is so absurd that on paper it looks like a parody. On the silver screen, though, it clearly is not. It doesn’t even laugh at itself like the greats of its genre with amusing scenes, lines, or characters. There’s no kooky side characters, a la Armageddon, and there’s not a shred of the classic wise guy/straight man comedy that was so enjoyable in Independence Day.
Nope, Wanted is straight up and down like six-o’clock, and expects its viewers to take it as seriously as it takes itself. That’s fine; there’s nothing wrong with adjusting reality here and there to suit a work of fiction. This isn’t a matter of adjusting and fine-tuning, though – in this film, reality is dramatically smashed,in hyperfast motion, into meaty chunks, then shattered in hyposlow motion into a semblance of its former self that all the Krazy Glue in the world couldn’t fix.
It’s a classic subgenre – the superhero flick. Wesley is nerdy and anxious, with a dead-end job, a smarmy best friend, and a pain-in-the ass girlfriend (who is having regular conjugal visits with the smarmy friend). In a nutshell, his life is far from enviable.
Far from enviable, that is, until one day when he finds that he is destined to do far more: join a secret guild of killers called (even though it employs at least one woman) The Fraternity.
I could literally write thousands of words about his Fraternal Exploits, which include shooting the wings off flies, curving bullets with his “instincts,” and killing someone in New York with a rifle fired from New Jersey, but I think the absurdity is better exemplified by addressing the nature of the organization itself. A group of heavily-armed, tough-as-nails men and women are given the solemn duty of “keeping balance” in the universe by killing those that fate itself has deemed unacceptable.
Okay. Bit preposterous, but we’ve all seen worse, right? I’m all for a bit of magical realism in my movies.
The ludicrousness, which previously trickled into the plot, positively thundered in a tidal wave with Fate’s chosen mode of communication. No crystal ball, no magic phone, nothing like that. The Fraternity is told who to kill through - naturally - a loom. Suddenly, the fibre bonanza I live in takes on a whole new meaning. Perhaps my mother’s seemingly harmless hobby is more sinister? Perhaps the loom that I thought just took up space in my parents lounge has an agenda I never suspected?
Upon his induction into the Fraternity, Wes undergoes a dramatic training program. But it’s not like any training I’ve ever seen or heard about. It is very light on actually teaching him anything, and very heavy on merely kicking the shit out of him. Somehow, a few weeks of this unlocks his innate ability to slow down time and make bullets curve. And don’t worry about his well-being, either – the brutal shit-kickings aren’t such a big deal because The Fraternity has a steady supply of a wax/water mixture that, if you immerse yourself in it, all your wounds are healed.
Like my hypothetical executives said, this movie was marketed to the basement-dweller crowd. The geek of geeks, who lives on World of Warcraft, who dreams of the day that he will realize his destiny and become an assassin for the forces of justice. Well, I’ve got a word of advice for him, a valuable, valuable lesson: recession or no, the Army’s always hiring. Your bullets won’t curve, but you’ll never take orders from a machine originally designed for rug-making, or any other textile for that matter. But if you’re not prepared to do that, turn this gore-porn, gun-porn, death-fest off and go read a book (not a gun magazine) or climb a tree (not a clock tower).