“Wanted”

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Universal

At Showcase & Quality 16

“I know this defies the laws of gravity, but, you see, I never studied law.” – Bugs Bunny

This quote may come to mind when one watches “Wanted.” Bullets flying across Chicago carve themselves perfectly into the foreheads of bad guys on rooftops. A man runs down an office-building hallway and perfectly smashes through the window, only to jump across the street, unscratched and in slow motion of course. And, most logic-defying of all, Angelina Jolie drives a Viper in high heels while shooting off shells on Lower Whacker, and still looks fantastic doing it.

Yes, this is one of those kinds of movies. There’s simply no point in analytically probing and complaining about the absurd R-rated kids’ show that is “Wanted.”

Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy, “Atonement”) is an office cog, slogging away in a cubicle, with a cheating girlfriend, an idiotic best friend and anxiety attacks on call. In short, he hates his life. But a not-so-chance encounter at a grocery store changes everything as Wesley is initiated a world of secret killings – or at least as secret as opening fire in a crowd can be. This is bloody comic stuff.

Based on the cult comic by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones, “Wanted” is inherently a comic book movie: young, directionless, popular actor is bestowed extraordinary talents so that he can train for the first hour, only to kick ass in an explosive finale. Did you know there are dozens of screenwriting books on these life-changing stories? On this basis alone, “Wanted” should be an unwanted work. But it’s this movie’s sarcastic wit and digital gusto that makes it a worthwhile experience.

In its finer moments, “Wanted” is like a righteous dark comedy. A geek getting a gun while reflecting upon it spastically is, well, kind of awesome. Once Wesley realizes that he’s a notorious protégé, capable of shooting wings off flies and curving bullets, life seems pretty sweet. Wesley’s solid voice-over that changes from tired to triumphant exudes that.

The film benefits from the talents of Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”), Common (“American Gangster”) and the indelible Jolie. Everybody here seems to know how good they are, even if curving a bullet should be impossible. David Denby complained in The New Yorker a few weeks ago about the lack of thrill in digital effects. For the most part, he’s right. We’re jaded; “The Matrix” ruined a lot of people’s imaginations. But in “Wanted,” with freak director Timur Bekmambetov (“Day Watch”) helming, we see a creativity we seldom see in CGI, making this alone worth summer action admission.

When a bullet vacates a man’s head, flying backwards slowly back to barrel as to reveal the shooter’s origin, we watch because it’s just so cool. It’s like people were actually trying when they made this. Just don’t go telling too many people you love this. Because, in the end, it’s a silly movie.

“Wanted” is not a good movie, but it sure is a fun one. Think of one of those snazzy colorful cocktails at Charlie’s. Looks cool, and you enjoyed it. But man, are you embarrassed for kind of liking it.

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