Scrappy tyke James McAvoy butches up nicely in Wanted, the first American movie by Kazakh director Timur Bekmambetov. Bekmambetov previously made the partly-brilliant, partly-poor Night Watch / Day Watch vampire movies and this latest opus is equally patchy; sometimes it is edge-of-the-seat thrilling, other times it’s just dozy. Although it’s apparently based on a comic book, for the uninitiated, Wanted borrows too much from all sorts of other movies. The Matrix is the most obvious of course; in Wanted too, nothing is quite what it seems, and certain humans are evidently not affected by things like gravity or pain.

McAvoy is transformed from weedy, put-upon accountant to buff enforcer for a shadowy group of assassins known as The Fraternity. His handler is the too-skinny-by-half Angelina Jolie (she’s got the scary look of a Bratz doll in this movie – though she’s pretty good, actually, and the chemistry between the two of them is palpable.) After his brutal training he’s sent after the man who allegedly murdered his father. But during the mission he begins to question whether the Fraternity can actually be trusted.

Wanted is set in Chicago, though due to constraints brought about by a number of films shooting in the city at the same time, much of the movie ended up being actually filmed in Prague. The Wrigleyville neighbourhood features, and there’s a dramatic chase scene along Wacker Drive – and a couple of sites recount the buzz of the on-location filming – David Dalka for instance.

There’s also a fascinating interview with the movie’s Chicago Location Manager Mark Mamalakis at MovieMaker.com . Says Mamalakis:

“I used to joke that my job was like being a public relations director on a pirate ship. It can be very intimidating to see 15 trucks parked in front of your house and strangers entering your living room or bedroom moving furniture, wall pictures, carpets, kids bicycles, etc. Since the location manager or scout are the first crew members that the homeowners will meet, usually days or weeks but sometimes only hours in advance, it’s important for the locations department to build a rapport with the owner or tenants before the actual prep or shooting starts, making them feel comfortable and interested in what is going to happen.

The key is to create a situation where our crew can get their work done and hopefully the experience will be memorable for the owner (and it usually is, in a good way).”

Wanted is a good-looking film that’s an entertaining enough way to spend 110 minutes – particularly if bullets emerging slo-mo from exploding skulls is your thing. (it is breath-takingly violent.)

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