Wanted was Timur Bekmambetovs entry into the US mainstream. The film is based on Wanted (2003-4), a comic-book series by Mark Millar, a writer known for his work on various Marvel and DC titles, as well as the comic-books that became the basis of Kick-Ass (2010) and Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015). What should be said is that the Wanted comic-book is quite different to what we see in the film. Perhaps most noticeably, the comic-book is a superhero title, while all reference to such has been eliminated from the film. The two Wanteds start in similar ways with hero Wesley Gibson being drawn out of his dreary office job and indoctrinated into a secret organisation where he learns of his skills as a super-assassin who can never miss. However, in the comic-book, rather than Wesley discovering that this is all an elaborate set-up, we learn that the Fraternity is an organisation headed by the worlds super-villains who have ganged together to eliminate the superheroes. The amusing point about the comic-book was working out which well-known comic-book figures that Mark Millar was referencing The Fraternity was headed by Mr Rictus who was clearly based on The Joker; Angelina Jolies Fox was intended as an analogue of Cat Woman; while most of the other Batman and Superman villains turned up in slightly disguised form. (Wesley himself appears to be based on Marvels Bullseye).
The film version of Wanted emerges more as the film that Hitman (2007) should have been. Or maybe if you wanted a closer analogy, you could call it a version of Remo Williams: The First Adventure/Remo: Unarmed and Dangerous (1985) as directed by Kurt Wimmer of Equilibrium (2002) and Ultraviolet (2006) fame in a full flight of his wilfully improbable gun kata moves. The early scenes also remind strongly of Fight Club (1999) you could substitute Edward Nortons nameless narrator in Fight Club for James McAvoys frustrated accounts clerk here and the two films follow almost identical paths about the hero being drawn into a shadowy underground organisation that posits violence as a means for disaffected middle-class males to feel alive again.
What fires Wanted up is Timur Bekmambetovs out of this world visuals. The film kicks in with an incredible opening scene where David OHara leaps through a multi-storey window and flies across an impossible distance between two buildings surrounded by a halo of glass while shooting at his opponent, only to be hit as he lands and for the bullet to then reverse and fly all the way across town back into the assassins gun. Bekmambetov creates scenes that are so outrageously improbable that as much as you decry their absurdity, you cheer at his directorial show-offishness. Images like Angelina Jolie racing up in a sports car and skidding so as to knock James McAvoy into the open passengers seat without stopping; she driving at a 90 degree angle along the side of a bus and then up across its roof; using her car as a ramp to spin James McAvoys vehicle upside down so that he can fire down through the sun roof of an oncoming car and hit his target; bullets taking impossible journeys, colliding in mid-air or one shot where a bullet is fired in a circle and eliminates a ring of protagonists; even a scene where McAvoy bashes his betrayer best friend in the head with his keyboard and the keys come lose and are seen to spell Fuck You as they fly through the air. It is only a sequence with a train hanging off a bridge that does not work so well, due to weak digital effects.
Where Wanted tends to fall down is in its second half. [PLOT SPOILERS]. The big twist mid-film that The Fraternity is a rogue organisation fails to seem convincing. If it were the case, why would they recruit Wesley and train him, knowing that everything he is being taught could be used against them (which would almost certainly be the case, considering the ease with which he finds the truth)? It also becomes increasingly improbable that James McAvoy can become a top-class hitman in next-to-no-time at all, enough to be able to take on and defeat an organisation of people who have been training all their lives. The problem here is also the idea of James McAvoy as an action superstar. I have admired McAvoys work in British dramas like Bright Young Things (2003), State of Play (2003), The Last King of Scotland (2006) and Atonement (2007), even the genre mini-series Children of Dune (2003), although more than any of these it was his role as Mr Tumnus in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) that put McAvoy on the map as a name. Alas, with boyish looks and slight build, James McAvoy just does not seem the action hero, try as he might. And that leaves the scenes with him taking on the Fraternity singlehandedly as all too faintly absurd.
Wanted was parodied in Disaster Movie (2008).
Timur Bekmambetov subsequently went onto direct Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (2012) and the remake of Ben Hur (2016). Bekmambetov has also produced a number of other projects including the animated 9 (2009), the NASA Moon landing/alien possession mockumentary Apollo 18 (2011), the alien invasion film The Darkest Hour (2011), the fairytale adaptation The Snow Queen (2012), the internet horror film Unfriended/Cybernatural (2014) and Hardcore Henry (2015).
(Nominee for Best Director (Timur Bekmambetov) at this sites Best of 2008 Awards).