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THE SCREENING ROOM | Fate takes aim in 'Wanted'
In a scene from this weekend’s pummeling action flick “Wanted,” the letters of a textile factory sign fall by force, littering the ground in erratic order like the flicked ashes of a cigarette. Spelled out among the chaos: F-A-T-E, which just so happens to be the theme for the powerhouse picture that follows Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), a young, apathetic cubicle farm account manager who matters so little that even a Google search of his name turns up nothing but thin air. The moment in the film is part convenient and part clever, and it’s gone in the blink of an eye, but it spells out a formula for a movie that’s part “Matrix,” part “Fight Club,” and part something all its own.
(If you jumble those same letters once more, you also get the words cereal, lefty and toilet, but that’s just dumb luck.)
Wesley is approached by the Fraternity, an ancient secret assassin society led by Sloan (Morgan Freeman) and Fox (Angelina Jolie) that gets its kill orders from a prophetic, mystical loom. The motley murderous crew inform Wesley his father, a man he never knew, was a high-ranking Fraternity member recently killed, and it’s up to him to find justice. So he snatches up his ergonomic keyboard and bids sayonara to his dead end job, girlfriend and goofy but disloyal best friend (a hilarious Chris Pratt) and joins ranks with a vein-popping crowd that curve the trajectory of bullets, flip cars to take aim through sun roofs and play capture the flag on elevated trains.
Wesley Calvinistically converts from a wimpy and panicked lap dog to a fully initiated, high-speed, low-drag enforcer of the ... er, loom. But despite the film’s somewhat silly pretext, it succeeds where other summer blockbuster’s have not — “Wanted” grips the audience by its collar and doesn’t let go until the credits roll. There is no ambiguously premature ending begging for a sequel, but instead a full-frontal assault over which genre fans will drool. Director Timur Bekmambetov injects new moves into old scenarios and employs at least one, if not more, twists that will surprise his viewers. The stunts are top tier, as is the gore. In one later scene, Wesley pops an enemy with a bullet through the eye, then continues to use the body as a shield while capping off a few more antagonists with his barrel sticking right through his poor victim’s cranium. McAvoy proves chameleonic, though at times the Scot’s delivery of lines in an American accent seems a bit overdone. But as the movie plays out, much of it to the track of a fast-beating heart, those of the audience race as well, from first to final bullet fired.