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Wanted

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
2008
Studio: 
Universal
Genre: 
Action
Format: 
Blu-ray
Region: 
All
Aspect Ratio: 
2.35:1
Directed by: 
Timur Bekmambetov
Cast: 
James McAvoy
Angelina Jolie
Morgan Freeman
Movie: 
4
Extras: 
4
Bottom Line: 
4

Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is in a rut. His job is hell, his best friend is screwing his girlfriend, and  he's still obsessing over the father that left him when he was merely seven days old. What Wesley needs is a good old fashioned kick in the ass; anything to jumpstart the miserable existence he calls a life. He gets just that, courtesy of a sexy assassin named Fox (Angelina Jolie), who not only tells Wesley that the father he never knew was actually an assassin, but that it is Wesley's destiny to join the same fraternal order of killers his father belonged to, so that he may avenge his death. Wesley, who's never so much as held a gun, finds all of this quite insane, but, once he realizes his hidden potential, he undergoes a transformation meek, anxiety ridden, cubicle slave to hardened killing machine. With the help of Fox, and the tutelage of the enigmatic group leader, Sloan (Morgan Freeman), Wesley takes on a string of assignments, taking out targets that fate has chosen, but, ultimately, has his sights set on Cross; the man who killed his father.

Loosely based on Mark Millar’s best-selling comic series,  “Wanted” also serves as the official western debut of visionary Russian director, Timur Bekmambetov, whose “Night Watch” and “Day Watch” have already made him something of an international phenomenon.  Bekmambetov’s kinetic shooting style and effects-minded aesthete made him the perfect choice to bring Millar’s hyper-violent and quirky comic to life, as Wanted is one of the most visually arresting and exciting action films to come along since The Matrix.  This is a film that truly requires total suspension of disbelief to thoroughly enjoy it, as the physics-defying action sequences  and eye-popping CGI work are purely the stuff of comic book fantasy.

McAvoy makes for a likeable "everyman" turned hero, while Jolie oozes sex appeal and girl power. The two have great chemistry, despite the lack of any real romantic subtext to their relationship (although Fox does plant a wet one on Wesley to help him stick it to his cheating ex), and it makes the film's twist that much harder to take. Freeman is wonderful as Sloan, imbuing the character with patented wizened grace as well as a disarmingly vulgar side that provides the film's biggest laughs. The real star of the film, however, is Bekmambetov's direction and eye for the extraordinary, which help to make Wanted the most exhilarating thrill ride in years.
        
Universal delivers Wanted in a solid 1080p MPEG 4 AVC transfer that retains the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The transfer is vibrant and reproduces colors quite nicely, with realistic fleshtones, deep blacks, and the deep crimson of blood. Detail is, for the most part, exceptional, although there were times where I found the image a bit soft and gauzy. I'm not sure if this has more to do with the source than the transfer,  however.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is fantastic, with excellent bass response, an enveloping and immersive surround mix, and great use of discrete effects. Dialogue is crystal clear and right up in the mix, while the film's hard rock soundtrack is aggressive but never overbearingly so. A film like Wanted wouldn't be the same without the cacophony of weapons fire and explosions, and all of this is expressed  in harmonious balance with the rest of the tracks. Great stuff!
        
Wanted comes fully locked and loaded with extras, including several short featurettes (in 1080p), the most entertaining of which include The Origins of 'Wanted': Bringing the Graphic Novel to Life, which showcases Mark Millar, and delves into the inspiration behind his graphic novel, and Cast and Characters, which offer in-depth looks at the stars of the film and their take on their roles.
 
A very nifty alternate opening sequence gives us a glimpse of The Fraternity in its early years, in which one of the assassins is tasked with killing the king. While I like how the film opens, I still wish they'd found room for this in the finished product, as it's truly beautiful stuff.

Wanted also features Universal's U-Control mode, sporting four different ways one can watch the film, including text essays, trivia, and video interview snippets. Also featured are select "animated" and narrated chapters of Millar's comic book that directly inspired specific scenes in the film.

Rounding out the extras are Making of Wanted: The Game, BD Live functionality, and a second disc featuring the now de rigueur digital copy of the film for playback on your portable media devices.
        
Wanted is an eye-popping visual feast that raises the benchmark for action cinema considerably. The film's director, Timur Bekmambetov, has already established himself around the world with his excellent Night Watch series, and Wanted is just further evidence of this visionary filmmaker's talents. Universal brings the film to Blu-ray with an arsenal of special features, very nice image quality, and an exemplary audio presentation. If you're an action buff, consider this one a must-own.

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