A few things Wanted is not: quiet or steadily shot. It's also not all that enjoyable. But then again, I'm surely not the target audience for this film. Watching the early trailers for the movie I was initially intrigued by the visuals — the way you can see every shard of glass as someone leaps out a window, for example. But the repetition of the same old thing — no matter how cool at first — gets tiresome, as is the case with the visuals (and the gratuitous violence) in Wanted. Often set to loud, racing music (or loud, brooding music), much of the movie would be better used in 3-minute segments on MTV (or whichever channel actually plays music videos).
James McAvoy plays poor, spineless Wesley, an accountant with major anxiety issues who is full of self-loathing, perhaps due to being walked over all the time. His boss is a heinously abusive woman, his coworker is sleeping with his girlfriend (who's also heinously abusive), and he just lets it all happen to him. Then he meets Fox (Angelina Jolie), a hot lady who tells him his heretofore absent father was actually a talented member of an assassins circle known as The Fraternity and was recently killed by a rogue member of the group. The Fraternity's leader Sloan (Morgan Freeman) recruits Wesley into the ring because Wesley has special assassin abilities and they need him to go after his father's murderer. What follows is a story of the unlikely pipsqueak "everyman" becoming an action hero by being as violent as possible. For more on this, read more.
The bottom line of the mostly weak story is that men can't be happy or in control of their lives unless they are violent. True, in this case Wesley doesn't even remotely stand up for himself in the beginning, and people should try not to be doormats. But Wesley learning to toughen up and be a man means getting horribly beaten (though nothing a warm, magical bath can't cure!) and then learning how to brutalize and kill others without that pesky conscience weighing in. And not that it's unusual in this genre, but women are barely included — oh, except for the smoking Hottie McFierce whose name in this case hilariously says it all (Fox) and who exists to slither around killing people and somehow beating Wesley to a pulp with her matchstick arms.
The gore is, I guess, supposed to be so preposterous that it's almost funny, which has been known to happen, like in Shoot 'Em Up. Or perhaps it's meant to be stylistic, in the vein of Kill Bill. But there's something insanely off about the violence in this movie, as though it means not just to entertain but to provoke people to be violent themselves. It's so sexy! Look how hot Angelina Jolie is! Don't you want to be like Angelina Jolie, or be the kind of guy who gets Angelina Jolie to respect him? Being a man — being a strong person in general — is achieved only through violence and aggression, and the visuals, the music, the pumping adrenaline coursing through James McAvoy make it all appear seductive, easy, and fun.
Oh, and we get to watch rats full of peanut butter explode. Yeah. Rats full of peanut butter.
I would say it's not slow-moving because the story clips along swiftly, but director Timur Bekmambetov seems extraordinarily obsessed with slow-motion, and the movie is probably about 20 minutes total if all those slowed-down moments of brutality and bullets slicing through air were run at normal speed. In truth, Wanted is pretty long for what it is: a testosterone-fueled bloodbath with a cute protagonist.