Four stars (R)

Wanted is overcharged and over the top. It’s an outlandish action film with a chip on its shoulder. Combining intense, impressively choreographed battle scenes with some Matrix-style mystical shit, it’s audacious as all get out and pretty damned entertaining.

Wanted is an utterly confident movie focused on a man suffering from a lack of confidence. The poor schnook represents us, of course, stuck in our routines and longing for adventure, for challenges, for ... more. The “more” offered by Wanted is the prospect of rebooting your life by joining a shadow fraternity of assassins, working alongside an incredibly sexy bad-ass woman, and facing pain and death on a regular basis.

Sounds like something that would primarily appeal to 15-year-old boys? Absolutely, but that’s the beauty of the project: Wanted assumes that somewhere within all of us lurks a frustrated, anxious, horny 15-year-old boy and the film is aimed squarely at that inner twerp.

It worked for me. 

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch, Day Watch), Wanted is based on the celebrated 2003-2004 comic book miniseries by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones. I have no idea whether or not the movie is true to its source, but I can attest that it grabbed me, jerked me into its demented world and took me on a wild ride before returning me to this reality and administering one last slap in the face while parting company.

The story opens in a Chicago skyscraper, as an assassin attempts to take out a powerful-looking fellow (David Patrick O’Hara) who responds by smashing head first through a thick glass window so he can traverse the gap between his building and the roof of the next one. A meaty CGI-enhanced duel follows, with bullets flying all over the place. By all over the place, incidentally, I really mean all over the place: These bullets can make curves.

In short order, quietly desperate account manager Wesley Gibbons (James McAvoy) is confronted by sexy bad-ass Fox (Angelina Jolie), who tells him that his long-absent father was in fact a great assassin who was just killed and, whoops, here comes Cross (Thomas Kretschmann), the guy that did it, and here we go into another crazy action sequence.

Long story short: Wesley can keep his dull life with an oppressive boss (Lorna Scott) and a best friend (Chris Pratt) who is screwing his girlfriend (Kristen Hager) or he can join the Fraternity, a 1,000-year-old institution of sorta super-powered assassins, run by the dapper Sloan (Morgan Freeman), that betters the world by eliminating people when instructed to by the coded patterns hidden in textiles woven in the factory that serves as their headquarters.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Mystical shit, creative ultra-violence, a few laughs, lots of thrills and an unfailing in-your-face attitude. The film loses steam twice, when Wesley begins his brutal training and, later, when the action shifts to Europe for a meeting with the threatening-looking Pekwarsky (Terence Stamp), but it regains its momentum quickly, aided by Danny Elfman’s agitated score. Wanted is well-cast, well-acted, well-presented big summer action with a big slather of hooey. Check it out unless you’re too mature. 

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