Remember that electric excitement, that adrenaline rush of pure action-movie joy that sluiced through your veins the first time you saw (pick one, based on the appropriate generation):
The Bourne Identity, The Matrix, Pulp Fiction, The Road Warrior, The French Connection, Bullitt, or any Jackie Chan/Jet Li/John Woo film made before they tried to break into America?
There’s a good chance you’ll have a similar response to Wanted, an ultra-violent, hyperkinetic, bullet-and-car-chase fiesta. Never mind that the movie’s sense of gravity-defying physics doesn’t correspond with real life; Wanted -- based on a comic book -- careens so quickly and adroitly through its breathless and often humorous 110 minutes that most viewers won’t have time to get picky about plot.
James McAvoy, in an about-face from the trembling sensitivity of Atonement, plays Wesley Gibson, an anonymous cubicle nerd who's haunted by the fact that his dad disappeared when he was a few days old. His girlfriend picks at him like a vulture over remains, his best buddy is betraying him, and his boss hates him.
Enter the Fraternity, a secret organization of weavers-turned-assassins that’s been keeping the world in order for the past 1,000 years; think of the Illuminati with crazy-mad textile and street-fighting smarts. Turns out Dad was a member, and now it’s Wesley’s turn to continue the family killing tradition, even if he wouldn’t know the difference between a left hook and left field. Besides, who could turn down an offer from fatherly Sloan (Morgan Freeman) and the appropriately named Fox ( Angelina Jolie)? Especially when they’ve wired millions of dollars into your anemic bank account.
So the Fraternity transforms Wesley with their cool-kid skills: bending speeding bullets with his mind (an effect that makes The Matrix’s stop-time bullet thing look so 1999); enduring staggering amounts of pain (any anti-Atonement types who wanted to see McAvoy get the life beat out of him will be sated); train-surfing like a mass-transit Tony Hawk; and driving like Britney Spears on her way to a shopping spree.
Through it all, Wesley finds out what really happened to his father and learns that all’s not paradise in Fraternity-land.
Directed with ferocity and a sense of fun by Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch), Wanted doesn’t let up. It doesn’t matter that neither Freeman nor Terence Stamp (as another member of the Fraternity) has much to do but look serious while intoning mythic nonsense, or that neither McAvoy nor Jolie should expect Oscar nominations this time around.
Wanted doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is pure, crowd-pleasing popcorn bliss.
Here's a look at what's else is new on home video this week.
"The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" is the follow-up to "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," with Liam Neeson again voicing the lion. Director Andrew Adamson and cast members provide commentary on single-disc and two-disc DVD releases and two-disc and three-disc Blu-ray editions. Other extras on the multi-disc sets include deleted scenes, cast and crew interviews and a tour of the movie's locations.
"Step Brothers" reunites Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly and director Adam McKay. It's the same team behind "Talladega Nights." This time, their comedy is about sibling rivalry and bonding. Ferrell and Reilly play middle-aged slackers living lazily at home. Single-disc and two-disc DVD releases and the Blu-ray have both the R-rated theatrical cut and an unrated extended version.
"The X-Files: I Want to Believe" brings back David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and series creator Chris Carter. The movie reunites agents Mulder and Scully in their post-FBI days, with the bureau enlisting them to help on a case with Frankenstein overtones. Single-disc and three-disc DVD editions and the Blu-ray release have the PG-13 theatrical version and an unrated extended cut, with deleted scenes and commentary from Carter and co-writer Frank Spotnitz.
"The Longshots" has Ice Cube playing a Pop Warner football coach, who recruits his niece to be the team quarterback. The DVD and Blu-ray releases come with a huge collection of deleted scenes, a making-of segment, chats with Ice Cube and director Fred Durst and a featurette on the real Pop Warner star who was the basis for the movie.
This week's TV on DVD releases include "Saturday Night Live: The Complete Fourth Season," "Law & Order: The Sixth Year," "Perry Mason: Season 3, Volume 2," "Cannon: Season One, Volume Two," and "Frost/Nixon: The Original Watergate Interviews."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.