Location: Los Angeles, California

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Wanted? Nah.

Seeing movies early is hard. It's hard because you're seeing that movie without the cushion of reading critics' reviews, hearing what your friends think, learning what it made at the box-office, seeing what users at IMDB are rating it, etc.

I try to see every film with an open mind, be it "There Will Be Blood" or "Transformers." But, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that a film's critical reception plays a small part in how I initially approach it. It's all the more easy to love "There Will Be Blood" when you know that nearly every other critic agrees with you.

But, when you see a movie early, the critics have not yet spoken. You're therefore left with only the movie itself and your reaction to it. The fun part is then waiting to see whether your opinion falls into the majority or the minority.

Which brings me to Timur Bekmambetov's "Wanted," a movie that I thought was absolutely vile. It belongs in that group of movies that champion aggressive violence over passive conformity; that is, it believes that it's much better to be a blood-thirsty assassin than a compliant accountant.

Whatever. That wouldn't bother me, though, if the film didn't insist on driving in its point with sickening violence. I do not need to see a bullet pierce a man's head in slow-motion, only to then be subjected to seeing it again in reverse. I do not need to see assassins practice their shooting technique on corpses. I do not need to see 1,000 rats literally explode (over and over and over).

And, still, all this violence wouldn't bother me if it was in service of something. But, "Wanted" is about nothing but supplying action aficionados an opportunity to masturbate at the sight of curving bullets, speeding cars, brutal torture, and Angelina Jolie (who supplies a "you see it and then it's gone" glimpse of rear-end nudity).

All of this is in service of a ludicrously silly story that has a ludicrously stupid twist. I don't even want to talk about the "magical weaving loom" that plays a significant part in the plot.

Bekmambetov is by no means a bad director. There are individual shots that I admired (especially one with a computer keyboard). But, this was a misguided movie from the beginning, and Bekmambetov was obviously too excited to play with his $80 million budget.

YET... two of my Entertainment Weekly coworkers really dug "Wanted." Todd McCarthy at Variety enjoyed it, as did Anne Thompson. Reviews are starting to trickle in, and they've all been positive.

And this is where I get a little anxious. Did I miss something? Was I having an off night? Am I incapable of enjoying dumb action movies?

No, no, and no. I'm standing by my opinion. You have to. You can never be a credible reviewer if your opinion wavers because of how others respond. And it's still early. As more reviews of "Wanted" appear, I'm predicting that more than a few critics will feel the way I do. I will then declare those critics my new best friends, and we will all go out and have a round of drinks while discussing why everyone else in the world is wrong about "Wanted."

And "Iron Man" too.


Anonymous Mark said...

I didn't think it was vile, but I was pretty underwhelmed with the whole thing. And this is coming from a guy who dug "Night" and "Day Watch."

12:17 PM  
Blogger AJF said...

I think it's almost worse--in terms of critic-shame--to love a movie that everyone else ends up hating. ('Cause let's be honest, hate is always more acceptable and dignified than enthusiastic love.) I remember seeing Shrek the Third before all the reviews came out and loving it. And then, of course...

Although my negative review of The 40-Year Old Virgin--which I still stand by--certainly got me some flack, too.

7:43 AM  

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