Of the summer's many revenge-of-the-nerd fulfillment fantasies—from The Incredible Hulk to The Foot Fist Way—Wanted stands the best chance of dislodging Fight Club from fanboys' Facebook pages. It has the same dizzying flipbook style, the same kicky ultraviolence, the same undeniable appeal of punch-clock payback—and best of all, no irony! Fed up with your shit job, your slut girlfriend, your shriveled manhood? Do what Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) does: get inducted into The Fraternity, a secret society of assassins who preserve order (and apparently do a lousy job) by snuffing undesirables. Even with a well-deserved R rating, Wanted is the most juvenile of the summer's comic-book movies, and in some ways the most up-front about its stunted playground machismo. This is a boy's, boy's world, where the battle cry is "Grow a pair!" and no more blood-boiling insult exists than being called a pussy. (Which is bizarre, because its most lethal ass-kicker is Fraternal member Angelina Jolie, whose dehumanized take-no-prisoners sexuality transcends gender the way a thermonuclear warhead overrides boundaries.) The director, Timur Bekmambetov (Day Watch), thrives on kinetic hyperbole: Cars flip like flapjacks, a speeding train plunges down a thousand-foot gorge only to go faster. But the appeal of Bekmambetov's style—that everything exists for sensation, logic and natural law be damned—is also its limitation. Even this Grand Theft Auto admirer can watch blood slung across the screen in fetishized slow-motion globules only so many times.
Jolie takes aim at the summer nerd-fantasy-fulfillment demo.
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., June 27. Rated R. 104 minutes.