"Wanted" certainly doesn't try to be another "Matrix", but it takes elements from the Wachowski Brothers trilogy (as well as "Fight Club" and maybe a really angry version of "Office Space") and creates an amped-up action picture that operates with the speed and sleekness of the kind of sports cars seen in the film. The picture stars James McAvoy as Wesley Gibson, a young man who's got a dead-end job, a cheating girlfriend and anxiety problems. His life is a mess, and he's sunken into a comfortable state of depression. Even the local ATM is telling him what his life has become.
However, one night everything changes: he's approached at a pharmacy counter by Fox (Angelina Jolie), who tells him that she knew his father - who was a member of an ancient fraternity of assassins. Shortly after, the two are attacked and go on a high-speed chase throughout the city that ends with their car literally flipping over a set of cops at a roadblock (while a dark movie overall, this scene offers one of the film's few big laughs.)
Wesley soon finds out more about the fraternity from Sloan (Morgan Freeman), who sets in motion an intense training program that sharpens Wesley's abilities. The moments that Wesley thought were anxiety attacks were actually moments of extreme focus. As Wesley soon finds out, the orders that the fraternity get come from a very unexpected place. However, his goal is to find and take out Cross (Thomas Kretschmann), a rogue fraternity member who was behind what happened to Wesley's father.
It's best not to think too deeply about plot points, but director Timur Bekmambetov ("Day Watch"/"Night Watch") does a fine job not taking the material (adapted from a comic book series by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones, although apparently the movie doesn't follow very closely to the comic book series) entirely seriously. The film is also clearly an instance of style over substance, but the stylish visuals are bold and impressive (including terrific visual effects work.)
The above-average performances certainly help maintain interest in the over-the-top story, as well. James McAvoy, who seems like a less likely action hero than Matt Damon was before the "Bourne" films, actually manages to pull off the transition from art films to action flicks exceptionally well. Jolie manages a sleek, dynamic performance despite not really having to say all that much. Morgan Freeman also offers a solid supporting effort, as well.
Unapologetically over-the-top in just about every way, "Wanted" may not be flawless, but it certainly delivers a visually remarkable thrill ride.
VIDEO: "Wanted" is presented by Universal Home Video in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a smooth, slick transfer of the film that does justice to the movie's bold visual style. Sharpness and detail are impressive, as fine details (hairs, texture, etc.) were often clearly visible. Although a few hints of edge enhancement were seen in a couple of scenes, the transfer otherwise looked clean and clear, with no specks, marks or other wear on the print. Colors appeared warm, vibrant and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults. Black level also remained strong throughout. Overall, this was mostly a top-notch transfer.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is a slam-bang effort, with plenty of surround use for effects (gunfire, etc.), ambiance and reinforcement of the score. Even the film's few subtle scenes kept all the speakers going in an involving manner. Audio quality was excellent: effects sounded punchy, dynamic and well-recorded. Dialogue sounded clean and natural, as well. Overall, the film's thrilling audio presentation matched the over-the-top feel of the movie quite well.
EXTRAS: The second disc offers the bonus features, and unfortunately, they're on the slim side. The primary extras are a series of short featurettes: "Cast and Characters", "Stunts on the L Train", "Special Effects: The Art of the Impossible", "Groundbreaking Visual Effects: From Imagination to Execution", "The Origins of Wanted: Bringing the Graphic Novel to Life", "Through the Eyes of Visionary Director", "The Making of Wanted: The Game". We also get an extended scene, "Wanted" motion comics and a digital copy of the film for download. No trailers, oddly enough. While I'd recommend the movie, I'd recommend the single-disc edition instead of the special edition, as the extras aren't worth it.
Final Thoughts: Unapologetically over-the-top in just about every way, "Wanted" may not be flawless, but it certainly delivers a visually remarkable thrill ride. The DVD Special Edition offers excellent audio/video quality, but the extras are rather thin - I'd recommend getting the regular 1-DVD edition instead.
The Film B