Wesley (James McAvoy) hates his life, with his dead end office job, his bullying boss, his live-in girlfriend cheating on him with his best friend, his reliance on pills to keep his stress levels down - not that they're all that effective - and his total lack of money and prospects. Sometimes he thinks of his father (David O'Hara), who walked out on the family when Wesley was a baby, wondering what happened to him. If only he knew that dad was currently leaping from one building to another to bump off the assassins who had been sent to kill him then he would be understandably impressed...
Wanted was, as with seemingly ninety percent of every Hollywood action movie in the twenty-first century, drawn from a comic book, this one written by Mark Millar who went on to bigger success with Kick-Ass a couple of years after this. Not that here we had a flop, as it did respectable business, but somehow it didn't stay in the memory too long, being one of those generic wish-fulfilment for boys efforts that went through the expensively computer enhanced motions without making an impression. That was not necessarily a bad thing, because sometimes a straightforward actioner was exactly what you, er, wanted.
Certainly that was apparently what the makers of this were banking on, with its director Timur Bekmambetov making his American movie debut after securing his name as a skilled helmer of such over the top fantastical business with his Night Watch movies in Russia. He brought the same kinetic force to the high octane sequences here, which was a good thing as for there was a sense that the movie was not so much appealing to those, like Wesley, who were stuck in a rut at home and work and more to those who saw the only way out of it was to bring an automatic weapon to their job and begin mowing down their co-workers as revenge cum catharsis. That's the way it begins, anyway.
But get through that first half hour of Wesley's misery and things became more run of the mill, no matter what extreme situations he found himself in thereafter. It all kicks off when Angelina Jolie introduces herself to him in a supermarket and before he can say hello a gun battle has erupted between her and a would-be assassin, Cross (Thomas Kretschmann). A foolishly violent car chase ensues with Angelina hanging out of her sports car firing off bullets while driving it with her feet, like you do, but it sets the tone broken in by the part with Wes's father, who was not quite as successful in fending off his attackers.
Soon our hapless hero is meeting a motley crew of assassins known as The Fraternity, led by Sloan (Morgan Freeman smooth talking his way through a role he could have performed in his sleep), who tells Wesley that dear old dad passed on his killing people genes to his son, and he really should join up with them for extended sequences of training. Said training involves jumping onto moving train carriages, shooting bullets round corners, and fighting a fat Russian man with sharp implements, all very well, but after about an hour of this you'll find the most pressing concern will be "where is all this going?" The answer to that is a plot twist that even if you haven't guessed it does not seem very surprising because there's realy only one way this could head, and although you'll be impressed by the fast pace and the embellishments to what is a frankly sour storyline, it's difficult to care all that much. Music by Danny Elfman.