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Revenge of the nerds turns a nobody into a trained killer.


The nerd-empowerment fantasy Wanted, based loosely on a graphic novel by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones, turns a nobody into a trained killer. As nerd fantasies go, this one's caught up in eighth-grade aggression. The hero never fucks his sex-symbol assassin mentor (Angelina Jolie): Wanted is purely about social vindication by way of guns and ammo. The fetishizing of violence is nothing new. It's just a way to elevate the gore quotient enough to separate it from what's otherwise a thin retread of Fight Club and The Matrix. For Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), being kidnapped and informed of his calling as a superhuman assassin (part of a 1,000-year line of skilled weavers) is the break he needs from his cubicle job. Wesley learns to shoot the wings off flies and attach bombs to rats. But life's about more than cruelty to animals: He gets to knock out his best friend twice. Director Timur Bekmambetov, who never saw a bullet-impacted scalp explosion he didn't like, works his elaborate action into a story that's easier to make sense of than his Russian horror Night Watch. But other than a car chase and some stunt work on a city train, his effects-heavy style feels belaboured rather than kinetic. He wants to play Wesley's transformation---from passive schmo to bullet-time master---as nasty humour, but the constant posteuring never lets viewers engage with what's happening.This isn't helped by the miscast lead. McAvoy's Wesley is too clean cut and pretty to sell the rebellious undercurrent. His most profanity-riddled lines are believable only as an actor and a script both trying to sound tough. Standing up to his powertripping boss gets a telegraphed cheer, but Wanted is just repeating a beat from Fight Club. Nerds already have better movie versions of this fantasy.


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