James McAvoy, Wanted
Credit: Jaap Buitendijk

Wanted is kind of unintelligible and idiotic. Also kind of nasty and brutish. And also undeniably kind of fun, especially when Angelina Jolie, as an assassin (assassiness? assassinix?) appropriately named Fox, narrows her cat eyes, sets her lush mouth, flashes an Illiad‘s worth of tattooed text on her impossible bod, and brandishes firearms.

But hold that thought a minute, let’s get back to unintelligible idiocy. See, there’s an overmedicated office drone named Wesley (Atonement‘s James McAvoy) who hates his sucky life — his girlfriend cheats on him, his work supervisor is an outsize shrew. (Tsk! Women!) Then Fox shows up to tell Wesley he’s destined to join a secret society of good-guy assassins who also happen to be weavers. I mean, they’re a guild of killers who can read the names of future evildoers woven into encoded cloth by a magical Loom of Fate. Then, as Loom monitor Morgan Freeman explains it, it’s up to the assassins to ”kill one and maybe save a thousand.” I mean — oh, screw it, it’s a comic book, from the series by Mark Millar and JG Jones.

Anyhow, the Scottish-born McAvoy proves to be as nimble a befuddled hero as he is an unlikely choice for the gig. The nasty and brutish component, meanwhile, arrives courtesy of director Timur Bekmambetov; he’s the crazy Kazakh action stylist who made the 2004 international thriller Night Watch and the equally mad 2006 follow-up Day Watch. Wanted is set in America — Wesley is ostensibly a cog out of a Dilbert comic strip — but there’s global realpolitik glee to the filmmaker’s fancy-splatter approach to violence. There are also a lot of exploding rats.

And best of all, there’s a lot of Jolie, barrels blazing. The star’s fearlessly sexy hauteur is unique in the biz today. And when she works it in Wanted, she kills, bullets optional. B

  • Movie
  • 108 minutes