DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    James McAvoy as WESLEY GIBSON
    Morgan Freeman as SLOAN
    Angelina Jolie as FOX
    Terence Stamp as PEKWARSKY
    Thomas Kretschmann as CROSS
    Common as GUNSMITH

    Rated R
    Studio: Universal

    Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov

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This summer, I had a whole bag of mixed feelings about the action flick “Wanted.” Due to a family vacation, I missed the screening of the film and didn’t catch it until well after it had opened and made a ton of cash, so I did miss the boat a bit for the film’s theatrical run.

Still, the movie opened against Disney/Pixar’s “WALL-E,” which I consider to be the best film of 2008. Seeing such solid box office returns for “Wanted” bothered me a bit, simply because it stole a bit of “WALL-E’s” thunder. Ultimately, there was room for two hits that week, considering they both drew from entirely different audiences.

I’ve been leery of Angelina Jolie’s movies for some time. After all, in the past ten years with more than 20 films to her resume, only a hand full have been any good. Add this to the fact that she’s so skinny in this movie, she looks like a cancer-ridden meth-head, I haven’t put much stock in her star power. Still, her bath house scene in “Wanted” did make Mr. Skin’s list of top ten celebrity nude moments in film for 2008, so that’s saying something for her sex appeal.

Now that “Wanted” is on DVD, I’ve come around. This is an exciting flick, and it helped secure a place in the cinemas for R-rated action films.

The movie is based on a graphic novel, which has been toned down a bit for the screen. James McAvoy plays Wesley Gibson, an utter nobody working in a dead-end office job. One day, he is recruited into a fraternity of assassins by a mysterious woman named Fox (Jolie). He is trained to use his natural skills to become a master assassin, and his assignment is to track down the man who killed his father.

“Wanted” is directed by Timur Bekmambetov, who gave us the stunning and original Russian vampire flick “Night Watch.” Bekmambetov adds his fresh sense of the genre to this movie, giving the film a gritty feel that is far different from much of the other action pieces coming out of Hollywood. He was a good choice to direct because he helped give “Wanted” a heavier feel than so many other flicks I’ve seen that have just tried to be Michael Bay rip-offs.

The cast is strong in this movie, and with the exception of a horrendously awkward f-bomb from Morgan Freeman (proving that he isn’t in the same gangsta league with Samuel L. Jackson and Lawrence Fishburne), everything fits together rather well. Even Jolie, who still looks too thin, comes across as sexy in the film and entirely believable as an over-the-top assassin.

But ultimately, this is McAvoy’s movie, as he plays the lead and his character goes through the most change. McAvoy has suffered from a bit of overexposure since he really came on strong two years ago with “The Last King of Scotland” and last year’s “Atonement.” He’s likable on screen and manages to work as both the overwhelmed office worker and the well-honed assassin.

The DVD comes with digital copy and a bonus disc that features an extended scene and several featurettes. Topics covered in the behind-the-scenes material include a look at the special effects, a look at the visual effects, an overview of the characters, the L Train stunt, a music video, a spotlight on the director, the making of the video game and the comic book origins of the story.

Of most interest to me was a look at where the comic book started. While there’s a bit of an anti-American sentiment expressed in the documentary (basically glorifying Bill Clinton and vilifying Republicans while claiming that Americans trust people in uniform too much), this shows the raw flavor of the original comics.

Even though the characters in the film are gray, they are still heroes. The comic book presents the characters as supervillains rather than heroes, and it comes across painfully in the motion comic presented in the special features. While certain points seem similar from the comic to the movie, it’s clear that the graphic novel is very different and has whetted my appetite to check that origin story out.

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