Short spoiler free review: only go and see this if you can live with an action picture entirely lacking a heart or soul which justifies its existance by lashing itself to a far too cool barrel before throwing itself into a river above a waterfall. Which isn’t a good thing TM.
So I went to see Wanted tonight. More on that later…
I also bought a crab to have for my dinner tonight. Stick with me through this, hopefully I’ll make some sense at the end. I bought a crab because I remember having crab in the hotel we used to go to on holiday when I was little. I had one of the crab shells for years. I had a memory of crab as some sort of exotic, cool experience. Somewhere along the way the crab shell was broken and found its way into a bin. I still had the memory though.
So back to Wanted. I have a liking for escapist action films. The Matrix, Hard Boiled, The Killer, Under Siege, Hot Fuzz… the list just goes on and on. Each in its own way has a certain cool quality. Wanted does cool. It has cool special effects (the curving bullets), it has some cool cast members (Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Terence Stamp), there were some cool ideas and some well constructed action scenes (for the last two you can watch the film). The problem was it left me feeling like I felt after I’d eaten the crab: unfulfilled.
The problem with the crab was it smelt like the memory and it looked like the memory but it didn’t taste like the memory. It just tasted of crab.
Wanted did cool like The Matrix. It did body count like Hard Boiled or The Killer. Unfortunately it left out heart and soul entirely – instead it had a by the numbers plot woven together by a committee who forgot to read the instructions on how to use a loom. It had some mystical mumbo jumbo spun in a loose knit pattern to try to justify wholesale slaughter and the death of innocent bystanders in a nihilistic aberration (I was tempted to say train wreck but that was just one reference too many) that placed no sign of any value being placed on human life. It cynically tried to press buttons: the assassins have a code. The death of a few, chosen by some higher power, saves the many and stops bad things happening to nice people so they don’t end up as assassins.
You may ask “Isn’t that true of all the films you mentioned earlier” – I’d disagree. Under Siege – Stop bad people stealing weapons of mass destruction. The Matrix – save humanity from aliens who have taken over the world. The Killer – he only kills bad people. Hot Fuzz – for laughs. Sorry let me try that again: Hot Fuzz – to satirize action films by showing how silly they are when placed in an incongruous setting. Yes and but also because its funny to see a whole older generation of Britain’s finest actors in a shoot out that isn’t embarrassing to watch. So the grammars a bit ropey at the start of that last sentence – its like the plot of Wanted.
Fortunately, unlike the crab, the next action film I see hopefully wont mistake cool for at least some sort of moral structure. No matter how flimsy.
That’s where I ought to finish. I should at this point not write anything else. Anything more is just me messing up my central thesis and sounding even more pompous than I already have. After all its just an action film that like 99% of its relations will be consigned to late night TV, three quid DVDs in the sales a year from now and taking up space on some film archive shelf and being added to lists of action films kept by people who keep such lists. No where near the top 100 I hope.
However a few parting thoughts that flitted through my mind…
David O’Hara – wasted in more than the literal sense at the start of the film.
Marc Warren – no picture on IMDB? Actually Marc Warren – why did he do this film? To say he’d worked with the cool people or because he gets a gun fired inside his head for part of an action sequence? Thousand Year Old Cult of Assassins – except the Hashshashins didn’t come into being until around 1090 so that would be a rounding error of sorts? OK I’m just being picky but if they predate the group the word comes from wouldn’t this be a film about something called something else. I know I’m losing it somehow here. I really should give up. Sorry I’ve more…
Weavers who a thousand years ago could convert binary found in the cloth produced by a loom and discover that it was a list of names of people to bump off (I did say there were spoilers) – yes the ancient Indian writer Pingala knew about binary some time BC. However we have to wait to 1605 for Francis Bacon for a mention of a system to use binary to encode letters of the alphabet. Six hundred years after our order of killers has been bumping people off. Even then if (whatever mystical force is directing the appearance of binary in the cloth) hasn’t sent a cypher key how do they know that they are bumping off the right people? Plus back when names were more flexible (as little as a couple of hundred years ago) how did they know they were bumping the right people off. Sorry I shouldn’t pick apart the fluff. Except when the fluff is used to justify so much violence someone should have made certain the weft hold the rest of the plot together.