Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Remember C3Po? The annoying, whining, simpering weasel that just made you want to throw something at the screen? You thought that was the most annoying hero character until the arrival of someone even more annoying...

Yeah, you knew who I meant. Jar Jar out-C3PO'd old goldenrod himself. On the bright side, he was not as whiny or simpering as the tin man but he was indeed annoying.

Fortunately for all movie lovers Jar Jar and C3PO essentially ended their run with the probable end of the Star Wars franchise. I mean, sure, The Clone Wars animated feature is slated to come out later this year but since Lucas is not directing it we should be safe from whiny, simpering primary characters. Meanwhile, let's go check out a movie slated to be a gunfire filled festival of fast cars, fast women, and fast shooting, Wanted (2008).

Meet the hero of Wanted (2008). Oh, not the gun wielding, maniacal driving cool headed Fox (Angelina Jolie). No, I am referring to the unbelievably whiny, simpering slug covering his head with his hands standing next to her. Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is the protagonist of the piece.

He is the food tube occupying a cubicle in a job that, in context of this movie, is pretty meaningless. When super assassin Cross (Thomas Kretsschmann) tries to kill Wesley he is protected and rescued by Fox.

Fox then brings him to the Fraternity, an ancient group of assassins who get their commands of whom to kill from binary code in the weaving. No word yet on how, exactly, people interpreted binary code in the middle ages...but then again, worrying about plot holes will destroy this movie. Otherwise, how can you explain people capable of firing through car windows, donut holes, cans of soda, turning 8 or 10 corners and hitting their target 2 miles away inside a building...yet need visibility to shoot at someone 10' away? Just ignore those things and go with the flow. We will all be much happier.

Back to the story; Fox, driving a Viper with her feet while sliding across the hood and shooting at Cross rescues Wesley. She takes him back to meet the Fraternity and begin his induction.

For those who love car chases this one alone is worth the price of admission. Ironman Al, I am looking in your direction. You will love this movie.

There are other car chases and a heavy dose of outstanding cars. It is a beautiful thing and very easy on the eyes.

Wesley proves to be a slow learner but slowly and surely he learns everything a guy needs to know to get ahead; how to take a punch, how to take a knife stabbing or slicing, how to curve a bullet and how to plan a hit.

He wants to hit Cross for killing his father but Sloan (Morgan Freeman) won't let him because he is not ready. So Cross comes looking for him.

Slowly Wesley learns the truth of how the Fraternity works and eventually (5 minutes in this will NOT be a surprise to you so hopefully I am not giving anything away here) he invades their facility in one of the best shootout scenes in recent memory...almost.

The action in the scene is brilliant...it is a well-choreographed set-piece full of blood and thunder with more rounds expended than in any 5 A-Team episodes ever filmed. There is a brilliant sequence of exchanges as he empties gun after gun and instead of reloading simply snaps up one falling from the hand of an enemy. I have but 2 quibbles and both speak to personal taste, not quality of film; 1) I would have loved it even more full speed as I am not a huge fan of slo-motion. 2) I am extremely sick of the jiggly, shaky camerawork. I can do that myself. Give me steady cameras. I want my movie to look slick. I want to know I am watching a slick, big budget Hollywood flick.

Be that as it may it leads to a well done ending where loyalties and mores are tested, the twists are more or less resolved, and the Fraternity is put to the test, as is Wesley.

As to the ending, and after you see the movie this will make a lot more sense, there is a huge difference between the characters played by Jolie and Freeman. It also speaks, in my opinion, to why Freeman is the better actor.

When he is asked to play the villain in a movie...he is a legit villain. There is no easy out such as I would argue Fox takes in this one...there is no question at the end that Fox is a "good guy" and Sloan is a bad guy. Is that simply script? Maybe. But I cannot call to mind a single movie where Jolie does not, at some point, prove to be a hero on some level.

By contrast, Freeman is not afraid to be the villain. In fact, we are almost coming to expect it to the point where we expect that twist. We may not know when it is coming or how but we know it is coming. And his commitment to villainy is enjoyable because he does it so well.

That is not to say he should only take the roles of villains. He is such a talented actor that the more Freeman we see the better off we are. He can play a variety of roles and commands the screen when he is on it.

By limiting herself to only heroic roles Jolie stifles her path. She is still a talented actress and lots of people enjoy, ah, feasting their eyes on her. Myself? I'll take Jessica Alba.

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