DVD Review: Wanted

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This is a review of the theatrical release, published on June. 19, 2008

The debut American feature by successful Russian director Timur Bekmambetov ("Night Watch" and its record-smashing 2006 sequel, "Day Watch"), this over-the-top, ultraviolent, hyperkinetic action thriller pretty much has it all.

That would include engagingly offbeat source material in the form of Mark Millar and J.G. Jones' comic book series, a decent adaptation by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas (last year's "3:10 to Yuma" remake) and Chris Morgan ("Cellular"), a terrific cast and jaw-dropping stunt work.

Then there's the visually charged talents of Bekmambetov -- a man who has funneled the best of the Wachowski brothers, Quentin Tarantino and contemporary Hong Kong action movies through his own wry sensibility.

Capably establishing the anything-goes tone of the Los Angeles Film Festival in its capacity as official curtain-raiser, the Universal guilty pleasure should make plenty of noise, especially with young males, when it opens next weekend.

James McAvoy, sporting a swell American accent, is certain to build on his big-screen appeal as Wesley Gibson, a put-upon account executive who discovers that his long-absent father belonged to a centuries-old league of supersensory assassins known as the Fraternity.

It also turns out that Gibson is a chip off the old block in the killing department, but before he can avenge his father's death, he must get into fighting shape with a little help from the Fraternity's Zen master of a leader, Sloane (Morgan Freeman), and tough-cookie Fox (Angelina Jolie, in sinewy "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" mode).

The three of them prove to be colorful assets in a film where even the bullets seem to have a personality all their own.

Set in Chicago but shot in a cleverly disguised Prague (save for a noticeably Eastern European-accented rendition of "Happy Birthday" by Gibson's fellow office workers), "Wanted" effectively hits the ground running with a steady flow of wildly inventive, CG-infused action sequences.

Also cranking things up a couple of extra notches are resident Michael Bay cinematographer Mitchell Amundsen, Oliver Stone's longtime editor David Brenner and prolific composer Danny Elfman, who skillfully dispenses with anything that could be mistaken for subtlety.
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