Dead or Alive – Wanted

‘Wanted’ actually isn’t very high on the list of films that I wanted to watch this summer. After having watched so many movies for so many years, you kinda develop a system for being able to sort out the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys, the pork from the pig (I don’t know why I thought of this, but the thought came to mind, and I found myself laughing out loud here in the library, and so I might as well include it here 🙂 ). It’s actually not very good, for just as a book should be judged by the cover, a film should also never be judged by the poster.

In my defense, though, I am not really judging it by the poster, nor am I looking at the cast and crew list. Any film that has Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman and James McAvoy would usually have me looking forward to its release. The fact that this is Timur Bekmambetov’s first American film (he of the ‘Nightwatch’ and ‘Daywatch’ fame) also failed to ignite much excitement in me. Sometimes, I don’t know why that is the case. I do know, however, that it is the synopsis of the film that got me deflated. A group of secret assassins, who, judging from the trailer, have the ability to bend bullets and jump really far, takes in a common man to train him to be an assassin like them. Quite frankly, it is one of the most ridiculous, most stupid ideas I have ever heard since…since…

…well, since ‘The Matrix’. And that turned out well, didn’t it? 🙂

But, I have to admit that it does look good. And ‘Nightwatch’ is a good, stylish flick. In the end, all things considered, there are more reasons for me to at least check it out and see what it’s like than to not see it.

So watch it I did.

And I was very, very surprised but what I found. Pleasantly so, I hasten to add. Remember the common worker I mentioned earlier? He is Wesley Gibson (portrayed by the aforementioned Scot, McAvoy), an account manager so bored with his life, his work, his girlfriend, that he could literally find no meaning to carry on. His job sucks, he gets verbally abused by his boss, his best friend is sleeping with his girlfriend…it seems that his is the life of the ultimate loser. To top it all of, he also suffers from panic attacks,

So of course, the ultimate loser then bumps into Fox (an appropriate name for Angelina Jolie, one thinks 🙂 ), who tells him that his father is dead. Given that his father has been an absent figure in his life, Wesley doesn’t really care…until Fox reveals that his father’s killer, Cross (Thomas Kretschmann) is out to kill him too. Cue a gunfight, a car chase, and then more gun fights as Fox saves Wesley’s life, and brings him to The Fraternity, a secret group of assassins. Here, Sloan (Morgan Freeman) wants to train Wesley to be an assassin, just like his father, and get his revenge. And so the journey begins for our Wesley.

And it begins for us, as well. Remember what I said about the ridiculous cheesiness of the synopsis? If you think that I’m about to change that, then you’re wrong. If anything, it is further reinforced the deeper we get into the movie. I mean, out of all the names for a group of assassins to pick, one could think of alternatives that would be more mean, more chilling, more…killing, than…The Fraternity. It reminds me too much of university societies, for some reasons. I think there are music bands who have cooler names than this. Hell, even university fraternities wouldn’t call themselves The Fraternity (at least, none that I know of).

And then there is the Loom of Fate. I bet that when the actors first read the script, they must have allowed themselves at least small chuckles along the way, and especially at…this. It is basically the loom that decides the targets for The Fraternity to kill, with the identities of the victims hidden in binary codes of the weaved pieces of cloth that the loom produces. Nevertheless, it worked out well, despite the barest of histories revealed not only for the loom (how the heck does it really work?), but also for The Fraternity itself. In any other movie, you might well be hard-pressed to go along with that. Nevertheless, ‘Wanted’ is so outrageous as a whole that you have no choice but to strap yourselves in, suspend your disbelief, and enjoy the ride.

And enjoy the ride, I did. I think the visuals that the director put forth are incredibly strong, able to lift a normal-sounding film to something a bit more special. The comic’s creator, Mark Millar, puts it best, really:  “The [script] I read was just too tame. It just seemed a little bit Americanized. But Timur came in with his Eastern European madness, and he really made it nasty.” Nasty in a good, crazy way, mind you. Witness some of the scenes in the film, where Wesley manages to flip his car over another in order to shoot at the target through the open sun roof (has to be seen to be believed! 🙂 ). The bullet-bending antics are also spectacular, though it’s not really all that new. Even the weaponry is a bit nuts, with Angelina Jolie wielding a gun that can be bent around corners.

And the music…ah, despite all that I’ve said before, the music is probably my favourite part of the piece. It shifts strangely between serene orchestral pieces that sounds like it’s coming straight from the heart of Moscow (for some reason), to the rock songs that accompanies the action scenes, pumping our adrenaline even higher. If anything, it perfectly encapsulates the film in a nutshell. The simpler, more intimate moments feels like nothing more than just the fillers before the big action sequences (though there is a message of getting back the control of your life, if you want to read it that way). But it’s the big action that really sells. There are more plot holes, if you really care to count it, than a mosquito net (stretching logic around like a rubber band), but, quite frankly, it is fun. Damn fun.

That, ultimately, is the most wanted quality of all.

Fikri also went to the Seoul branch of Roti Boy after the show. What a day it turned out to be! 🙂

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