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Wanted (R) **

James McAvoy stars as Wesley in the action-thriller "Wanted."
James McAvoy stars as Wesley in the action-thriller "Wanted."

By Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald

Once upon a time — a thousand years ago, in fact — a clan of weavers banded together to form an assassins club and, presumably, knit some nice sweaters in their down time. They do not kill randomly. They take their orders from a magical loom of fate. If your name pops up via the loom’s secret code, consider yourself dead.

Such is the Monty Python-esque background in the violent adventure Wanted, which mixes buckets of gore with bizarre notes of whimsy and unintentional comedy. Adapted from a series of comic books by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones, the film hardly aims to be serious entertainment, and, to its credit, it’s never uninteresting visually, what with all the people crashing through windows and bullets that can curve around obstacles to find a target. It’s got an uplifting take-this-job-and-shove-it moment that will be pleasing to any unhappily employed individual. The loom, however, is only the beginning of the silliness.

James McAvoy (Atonement) plays Wesley Gibson, an account manager in a hellishly dull job who suffers over a cheating girlfriend and a nasty boss. He’s so insignificant (or so he thinks) his name doesn’t even come up on a Google search. But then he’s singled out by the sinewy, tattooed Fox (Angelina Jolie) and brought into the fold of the Fraternity, the aforementioned weavers who operate out of a working textile mill and drill Wesley through vicious beatings, stabbings and lectures on a mystical force that sounds suspiciously like the one on which Luke Skywalker relies.

Wesley’s father, much like Luke’s, was once important in the struggle between good and evil. He was a peerless Fraternity operative, and new boss Morgan Freeman thinks Wes can follow in his dad’s bloody footsteps. Freeman, incidentally, is forced to embarrass himself by uttering the sentence, ”We call this the loom of fate.” The loom, for the record, knows binary code. Wesley gets banged up but turns into a deadly force and is never forced to crochet.

McAvoy is an unlikely tough guy, but he’s an engaging enough actor to pull off the role, especially when he takes the time to wink at it. Jolie, who pretty much sticks to nonchallenging, action-figure parts these days, doesn’t do much except smile enigmatically and fire a weapon. The point of the film, however, is not the people in it but a series of rousing chases: in cars, on a train, through the mill. When the characters are on the run, Wanted can be a bloodthirsty crowdpleaser, a passable action flick to while away the summer hours. When they’re explaining themselves, you almost wish they’d stuck to their original calling and made rugs, not war.

Cast: James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman

Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Screenwriters: Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, Chris Morgan. Based on the comic books by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones

Producers: Jim Lemley, Jason Netter, Marc E. Platt, Iain Smith

A Universal Pictures release. Running time: 110 minutes. Strong bloody violence throughout, pervasive language, some sexuality. Playing at: area theaters.

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