The Nine Inch Nails song “Every Day is Exactly the Same” is so thematically perfect for the early part of Timur Bekmambetov’s Wanted, that it seems to have been composed especially.
But Wanted is weighed down by an overly extensive backstory that goes back thousands of years, and an approach to violent spectacle that borders on the sadistic. It’s hard not to sense a trend, as I’ve had the same complaints about a couple other movies I happened to see recently: Hancock, Speed Racer, and Southland Tales.
Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy play assassins with superhuman abilities, directly tied to the action choreography and special effects: the power to “throw” bullets and slow down their perception of time in order to move superhumanly fast. All of this is framed in close and medium shots, a bad choice for an action film that ought to display its stunts and derring-do in full. It’s more visually disorientating than even the hyperkinetic Speed Racer, but the slow-mo sequences paradoxically render the proceedings rather boring — even when something that ought to be impressive is happening, a bullet sliced in twain by sword.
It’s difficult to feel sympathy for a protagonist who, when causing a literal train wreck, resumes his murderous mission instead of aiding the countless innocent bystanders he has turned into collateral damage. In the end, Wesley smugly asks, “What the fuck have you done lately?” So, becoming a superhuman assassin has granted Wesley self-actualization: he’s free of his botched relationship and dead-end job, he’s physically fit, and he shoots people in the head for a living.
So, Wanted flirts with the nihilistic themes of David Fincher and Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, but without the irony. What many surface-level admirers of Fight Club seem to forget is that while it initially seems to celebrate its unnamed protagonist’s decisive break from the supposedly stifling bounds of society, his self-help credo attracts the wrong kind of followers and spins out of control to its ultimate logical end: anarchy.