If ever a foreign filmmaker were destined to succeed in today’s Hollywood, it’s Timur Bekmambetov. His goofy, good-versus-evil light shows, Night Watch and Day Watch, were shameless major studio tryouts; they were calibrated to catch the eye of execs hungry for a stylist with zero qualms about selling out. Though Bekmambetov’s films may heavily mimic the Wachowskis’ aesthetic, his true cinematic hero is George Sluizer, the Dutch auteur who followed up one of the greatest thrillers of the last thirty years, The Vanishing, by willfully helming the obligatorily misconceived American remake himself (ruined ending and all).
This capitulation pretty much destroyed Sluizer (he also had the misfortune to direct the uncompleted River Phoenix movie, Dark Blood), but I have a feeling Bekmambetov will thrive; he did, after all, make his bones with the Roger Corman-produced, female Gladiator ripoff, The Arena. And bully for him! This just means Wanted, the f/x-laden adaptation of yet another firearm-fetishizing graphic novel, doesn’t quite count as his English-language debut. It does, however, appear to be of a piece with his previous work – which is to say it’s gonna be greased stupid.
James McAvoy stars as a straight-laced regular joe whose quotidian life gets a squib infusion when Angelina Jolie* sidles up to him at a pharmacy and announces that she knew his father. Stifling a boner, McAvoy informs the inveterate homewrecker that his father died the week he was born. "Au contraire," contends Ms. Jolie. "He was one of the greatest assassins who ever lived." Before McAvoy can retort "Were you really fucking Ethan Hawke during that sex scene in Taking Lives?", bullets start whizzing to and fro, and, sure enough, we’re stuck inside of Wooville with the Ringo Lam blues again. And then Morgan Freeman shows up.
Though the trailer for National Treasure: Book of Secrets still holds the 2007 honor for Best Nonsensical Utterance from an Academy Award Winner, Freeman fires off a worthy runner-up here: "If no one ever told you bullets fly straight, what would you do?" Excellent question. I suppose I’d finally get the living room furniture reupholstered, but, failing that, I might just curl up next to a hissing furnace with a volume of Koontz. A second later, Freeman informs McAvoy that his deceased father "could conduct a symphony orchestra" with a pistol. Pretty good. That said, seeing as how my dad told me he once saw George Szell guide the Cleveland Symphony through Beethoven’s 7th wielding a newborn infant, I’m probably not as impressed as I should be.
Seriously, this looks very standard-issue, but you get what you pay for. Wanted is scheduled for wide release on March 28, 2008.
*Baring her real-life tattoos.