Wanted
The 2008 update to Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” music video looks good.

Theatrical Release Date: 06/27/2008
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Cast: James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Thomas Kretschmann, Terence Stamp, Common

Putting James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman in a film together is enough to get my attention. Toss in Thomas Kretschmann, Terence Stamp and Timur Bekmambetov, the director of Night Watch (Not the one with Ewan McGregor) and Day Watch – and now I’m tempted to salivate. So why was I so disappointed with “Wanted”?

It does have action, as the trailer indicates, but every good action sequence except one is in that trailer. The beginning and end deliver high-energy violence that are a welcome respite from the average (“Get Smart“) to terrible (“The Love Guru“,”Zohan“) comedies that are littering the multi-plexes but the middle section slows the film down considerably and becomes far too complicated for no good reason – keeping me from finding that happy place where people just go balls out, defying physics and general plausibility to murder each other.

Focusing on the good elements, McAvoy was a great choice to play a reluctant assassin. Going about life as a punching bag to everyone else in his life, the awakening to a whole other world was pulled off well and considering this theme (and some of the action and the ending) are concepts seemingly lifted from “The Matrix”, it’s a shame he wasn’t available to The Wachowski brothers to make Neo far more three dimensional than Keanu attempted.

“Adopt-the-World” Jolie was also well cast as her severe countenance lends itself so well to playing roles that demand a little edge and playful brutality. Now toss in Morgan Freeman to play the mysterious, sage-like head of a 1,000 year old assassins guild and you’ve got the foundation for a kick-ass film.

Somehow though, the fantastic action that gets tossed in here and there just isn’t enough to maintain my goodwill. What makes this worse is that I really didn’t have high expectations. All I wanted was a bunch of souped-up a-holes running around and killing each other. I didn’t want a well-rounded script or character development, I didn’t expect or want any depth or explanation of the assassins’ code of conduct or reason for being. I just WANTED mindless death and unrealistic, over-the-top action. Is that so much to ask for?

Apparently it is and that’s a crying shame. Now, I’m not panning this film, per se. Action junkies will get some of their fix here (though Angelina fanatics shouldn’t expect much more skin that what’s in the trailers) and the actors all around do a good job. However, the filmmakers should have realized that throwing in a plot twist and generally complicating things too much was the wrong way to go. And it’s almost more annoying that McAvoy’s one-on-everyone assault near the end of the film is so crazy and fun … why couldn’t the rest of the film approach things like that? Note to Bekmambetov: If you’re making an action film that wants to take it to the next level, don’t take your foot off the figurative gas pedal.

Also, I’m really confused on casting Terence Stamp here – not because he can’t act, his skills are top notch. However, if you’re going to cast someone that good, give him something to do. He has a handful of lines and his action consists of running across a room, standing on a train station and helping a shirtless James McAvoy out of the bath. For that, you cast Terence Stamp? Wasn’t there some crappy local dinner theater going on where you could have pulled someone out for a fraction of the cost and/or just the craft services? Having Stamp here was a tease and I didn’t appreciate it.

I realize that this is based on a comic book series so I suppose that all of the convoluted relationships and wide assortment of characters haphazardly thrown in are a result of trying to please the fanboys. I can respect that but there had to have been a way to do so without sucking all of the life out of the middle section of the film (and from what I’m told from someone who’s read the comics, this ain’t all that faithful to the material). If I could have clipped out the middle hour, I’d have been a much happier guy and more than likely still have understood what was going on because as criss-crossed as things get, it’s not rocket surgery.

Still, if you need an action film reliant on a British actor, hot actress, crazy physics and guns, go see “Shoot ‘Em Up” … though since that’s on DVD, in theaters right now I suppose you can make do with “Wanted” and so I’ll give it a 3 out of 5. I really did feel let down by the end of the film but maybe I’m just too naive in hoping that a director who’s been wanting to make a big Hollywood movie his entire career would focus on making something ultra-stylish and keep from worrying about story development since no one was expecting Shakespeare here.

Like I told my second wife, “It’s not you, it’s me. I wanted something more.”

I really am going to hell, aren’t I?

Don’t answer that.