Wanted (2-Disc Special Edition)

The adaptation of the violent Mark Millar/J.G. Jones comic book, “Wanted”, into the violent movie, Wanted, was a dream come true for teen boys everywhere. The rest of us should be less enthused, but even someone with a brain in their head can get a little enjoyment out of this fast paced shoot-em-up flick. I really feel badly that I didn’t hate Wanted. It’s a movie that deserves to be hated. It’s ultra violent with pretensions of deep social commentary that it never comes close to realizing. Frankly, it’s pretty silly and rather than saying “whoa” at some of the visuals, I should have just laughed. I wanted to hate Wanted, but it was just barely eeked over the line into thrilling fun.

Wanted, the fantasy violence orgy, helps itself by casting real actors in most of the key parts. James McAvoy is Wesley Gibson, a cubicle jockey with an anxiety disorder that requires lots of medication. He calls himself the “most insignificant person on the planet” in his own voice over narration and everyone treats him as such. His boss, his cheating girlfriend, his best friend (who’s banging his girl), and life in general spit on Wesley everyday. McAvoy is all sweat, nervous gestures, and red faces as his own fears and worthlessness weigh him down.

Fortunately for Wesley, he’s not quite so hopeless. He’s the son of legendary assassin who works for The Fraternity, a guild of killers who get their assignments from a magic loom (seriously.) The Fraternity sends Fox (Angelina Jolie) to recruit Wesley so he can take on Cross (Thomas Kretschmann), a rouge Fraternity member who killed Wesley’s father. Sloan (Morgan Freeman), the leader of The Fraternity, tells Wesley that he can shoot the wings off a fly, curve bullets, and generally be a bad ass and not an uber-loser if he joins up. He’ll also have the chance to avenge his dead father, which would be important to Wesley since his father left home when he was seven….days.

From this point on, the movie just turns into a teenage boy’s wet dream. There’s gun porn galore, of course, but also car porn, torture porn, and, thanks to Jolie’s naked back, a little porn porn. We get the obligatory training montage where Wesley goes from being raw loser with no skills to the most kick-ass ass kicker from kick-ass town that ever kicked ass. Get it? He kicks ass.

So why didn’t I hate this movie more? Mostly because it’s pretty well done. Director Timur Bekmambetov loads every frame with visual thrills and keeps the pace pumping. Car chases, shoot outs, hand to hand fights, and train crashes come one after the other and often the only response is “wow.” Like The Matrix, all the style points and hints of some deeper current make you think there is more to it than there is, but the style points are probably enough. If you can watch a car do a flip so the driver can shoot down through the sunroof of a limo and kill his victim without feeling like you’re being conned, then you’ll probably enjoy this a lot.

Forget the plot, Wanted lives and dies with two guys shooting bullets at each other that meet in mid-air, a man hitting everything he shoots at while no one can hit him, or the constant slowing down and speeding up of the film to give you a new view on some very old tricks. While it’s clear green screen is in use, it does feel that even the big stunts (and this movie is all about the stunts) are more about real people in harnesses and real cars than a lot of CGI tricks. It’s just fun to watch.

So turn off your brain. I mean shut it right down. Even thinking a little bit about what you are watching will probably turn this movie from a borderline recommend to a big avoid. If you can keep from thinking too much and can handle the high blood spatter factor, you’ll probably get an evening’s worth of enjoyment from Wanted. The Wanted 2-Disc Special Edition contains about 90 minutes of extra features and a digital copy of the film to put on your portable media player or computer. It’s not as “wow” inspiring as the movie itself, but it gets the job done adequately.

There are really no deleted scenes as such; instead the second disc kicks off with an extended scene. Mostly it’s additional footage from the gun training scene when Wesley first joins The Fraternity. It’s actually pretty funny, but only ads about two minutes to the scene.

The usual action-movie behind-the-scenes extras are included. There is a twenty minute “making-of” featurette called “Cast and Characters.” It discusses the main characters and the actors who portray them. Nothing really unique here, but it gets the job done. Director Timur Bekmambetov gets his own 9 minute feature which taken with the one about the cast covers all the major players in sufficient detail.

Since this movie is all about the action, the three extras about stunts and special effects will probably be of the most interest to this movie’s core audience. They are all fine; again nothing earth shattering, but they do cover the basics. Taken together, “Stunts on the L Train,” Special Effects: The Art of the Impossible,” and “Groundbreaking Visual Effects: From Imagination to Execution” last almost twenty minutes. The “L Train” only really discusses the jump that Wesley does across the bridge during the train race at the end of his training. The other two are a little more wide ranging. It is a bit amusing when the producer says that because of the cool special effects, things that are completely unbelievable are “possible” and within the “grasp of reality.” No, not really.

Since the movie started as a comic book, there are two extras that look at the source material. The first is “The Origins of Wanted: Bringing the Graphic Novel to Life” and lasts eight minutes. Comic writer Mark Millar talks about his influences in writing the comic and there is discussion about how it was adapted to the movie. The most interesting thing to the uninitiated is how different the comic looks than the look of the movie. They clearly changed a lot. There are also eight scenes from the comic book that are given motion and narration to give a sense of how scenes were translated. If you have no knowledge of the comic (as I didn’t) it’s interesting stuff.

The final two extras are the ten minute “The Making of Wanted: The Game.” It’s pretty much just a long commercial for the game. There is also a music video for the Danny Elfman song “The Little Things” that features prominently in the movie. The whole video uses scenes from the movie (rather than of Elfman) and was created by a contest winner.

The lack of a commentary track is a hole, but overall the disc package is, like the movie, good but not great. If you’re a Wanted nut, you might feel that the extras are a bit slim, but they do cover the minimum and do it satisfactorily.