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WANTED
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Terence Stamp, Thomas Kretschmann, Common, Angelina Jolie
Director:  Timur Bekmambetov
Audio:  DTS HD 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Universal
Features:  See Review
Length:  110 Minutes
Release Date:  December 2, 2008

“Welcome…to The Fraternity.”

Film ***

Just how over-the-top can over-the-top be before it becomes a problem?  I’m sure there’s a line somewhere, as well as directors who are constantly willing to explore that territory.  Wanted is a film that pushes the boundaries dangerously close to insanity, but manages to fall just on the right side of gleeful illogic and absurdity. 

It’s like a teenage boy’s hormonal fantasy come to vivid, ridiculous life.  I mean, the main character is essentially a nerd who gets walked on by his boss, his girlfriend, his best pal, and everyone else, until he finds out he has a gift for high powered violence and precision killing.  He gets to shoot, shoot and shoot some more, engage in the most brutal fisticuffs this side of the UFC, save the day, and make out with Angelina Jolie in the process.  What geek wouldn’t dream of such a prospect?

The character is Wesley Gibson (McAvoy), an account manager with the most horrid boss imaginable, a nagging girlfriend who’s doing the nasty with his overbearing best friend, and a life that’s as much of a cage as his dank office cubicle.

But then comes the day when a strange man (Kretschmann) seems to be gunning for him, and a sultry female assassin named Fox (Jolie) comes in to save the day.  Why would anyone want Wesley dead? 

Because he’s actually the offspring of a member of a millennia-old Fraternity of assassins, currently led by the mysterious Sloan (Freeman).  Wesley has a gift…he thought they were panic attacks, but in reality, his heart is capable of beating so fast that the adrenaline rush seemingly slows down everything around him and gives him the ability to do physically impossible feats…feats like bending bullets around obstacles, extra strength and speed, and the ability to withstand pain, with the aid of a special recovery bath that makes him look a little like a glazing machine accident at a Krispy Kreme.

I can’t delve into the overall plot because it takes some turns as crazy as the curving bullets, but it begins with Wesley learning that his father had gone renegade and turned against The Fraternity, and has been targeting its members one by one.  Wesley may be the only one who can stop him…something I bet his CPA never prepared him for.

It’s a tried and true formula, but the joy in the movie is the way director Timur Berkmambetov elevates the action to levels that don’t merely defy logic, but obliterate it.  Newton’s laws were apparently made to be broken, and there is no amount of suspension of belief can overcome it all.  And the trick is…you won’t care.  My expressions while watching Wanted went from arched eyebrow to dropped jaw to full out laughter, but there was never a moment I wasn’t enjoying myself.  I mean, what Wesley does with his computer keyboard?  Completely preposterous.  And perfect.  Who wouldn’t love it?

The violence is escalated, and sped up, and slowed down, and given every cinematic trick in the book to bring the bloodshed up to ludicrous levels, but don’t expect an apology.  It’s as if the whole movie was screaming out a double-dog dare to Michael Bay.  The experience is an overdose of testosterone, but for two hours, it’s a fix that feels guiltily good.

You might have to be an action junkie, in other words, to really appreciate the spectacle of a film like Wanted.  But you know who you are…and if that’s you, get ready to turn off your brain, turn on your adrenal gland, and hold on for one of the craziest and most inexplicable white-knuckle rides of the year.

Video ***1/2

The film has a deliberate look which seems somewhat artificially darkened…it’s an interesting style, but may pose some high definition limitations, as some undue grain and murkiness results in a few scenes here and there.  The 1080p transfer delivers best on the action sequences, of which there are plenty.  The scenes that are naturally darker, aka night shots, look terrific…sharper and crisper, with better contrast and color presentation.

Audio ****

The DTS HD soundtrack is LOUD…be forewarned.  I lost track of how many times I had to grab the remote and bring the volume down.  In other words, dynamic range is formidable, and so is the constant use of the surrounds and subwoofer.  The action utilizes multi-channel digital sound to its fullest, and Danny Elfman’s score even gets a boost from a full 5.1 orchestral presentation.  Dialogue is always well-delivered amongst the constant bed of effects, and when characters are speaking in big empty rooms, you’ll feel like you’re right there with them.

Features ***1/2

The Blu-ray disc includes Universal’s exclusive U-Control, which gives you one click access to some cool stuff.  Picture-in-picture gives you some interviews and behind the scenes footage, or you can watch some motion comics in which the graphic novel comes to life with narration and sound effects, or Scene Explorer, which allows multi-angle perspectives of the action.

The disc also includes an extended scene and alternate opening, profiles of the assassins, a look at the train stuntwork, a closer examination of the amazing special effects, and how the graphic novel was brought to life.  There is also BD Live and a bonus digital copy disc.

Summary:

Wanted pulls no punches and leaves nothing on the table…it’s a loud, violent, sexy, completely over-the-top action film that races like a car with no brakes and no steering down a highway of complete insanity, and then wants to take you down the wrong way of a one-way street.  They haven’t invented adjectives for this kind of experience, but if it sounds like your idea of a fun night in, this Blu-ray will definitely deliver the goods.

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