The trailers for the action movie "Wanted" promise some hot romantic sparks between stars Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy. "Is this when we start to bond?" asks McAvoy. "Would you like to?" Jolie purrs. Then there's a shot of the two smooching. The thing is, that first rooftop scene isn't even in the movie and the kiss (which is) has nothing to do with romance. There is no love story. At all.
So much for truth in advertising. The rest of the trailer, however, gives you a fair taste of Russian director Timur Bekmambetov's hyperbolically violent movie. The filmmaker, whose Russian sci-fi fantasies "Day Watch" and "Night Watch" broke box-office records in his homeland, whips this preposterous tale of an ancient secret society of assassins into an expressionistic frenzy, relishing every slo-mo bullet through the skull. McAvoy is an anxious, cuckolded office drone who's recruited by the Fraternity and transformed into the superhuman super assassin he was born to be: it turns out his murdered father was this nutty organization's greatest killer. Its sagacious leader (Morgan Freeman, natch) explains that they are just restoring order to a chaotic world. "Trust your instincts," he advises, which should give you an inkling of the script's originality.
Jolie, radiating slinky, lethal glamour, is one of the more accomplished death-dispensers, though when she punches out McAvoy (during his training) you fear her needle-thin arms will crack on the spot. Somebody needs to give this beautiful assassin a Fatburger.
"Wanted" has one good plot twist in store (though it makes little sense), and its sense of humor about its own silliness keeps the fantasy afloat for a while. But as the body count rises, so does the portentous tone, and the relentlessness of Bekmambetov's overamped style becomes oppressive. The astonishingly versatile McAvoy does more than keep a straight face; he works his butt off to anchor the tale in real emotions, and almost pulls it off. Here's a movie that offers mass murder as a cure for the 9-to-5 blues. Is that Russian, or what? Personally, I'd have preferred the love story.