As one who has actually done a Google image search for "James McAvoy + naked" (unless you're turned on by shirtless pictures of Mr. Tumnus, don't bother), I was excited to see the eminently doable Scottish actor take on something more badass than his past roles, which've ranged from the uncomfortably fey (the aforementioned faun in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) to the merely pretentious (Keira Knightley's lover in Atonement). Additional, less-carnal interest was aroused by the movie's source material: Wanted is based, albeit extremely loosely, on Mark Millar's gleefully misanthropic comic of the same name. (Unlike those lab rats who eventually learn to quit pressing the lever that delivers the electroshocks, I still believe in the possibility of books I like being turned into movies that I like. Clearly, I am an idiot. An idiot who needs to get laid more often.)
Of course, anyone whose judgment isn't clouded by lust and/or an affection for the comics has certainly already discerned from its trailer that Wanted is spectacularly terrible, a brainless celebration of stylized violence that's fatally hamstrung by its own moral squeamishness.
McAvoy plays Wesley Gibson, an office drone yanked straight from the pages of Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club: His girlfriend is cheating on him with his best friend, his masculinity is daily undermined by his mean fat lady of a boss, and, with no father in sight, he's part of Palahniuk's "generation of men raised by women." One day, while Wesley is at the store filling his prescription for anti-anxiety meds, a tricked-out Angelina Jolie appears, guns blazing, and informs him that his long-absent father was part of a top-secret fraternity of assassins who was himself recently assassinated, and that now Wesley must avenge his father's death.
Wesley promptly abandons his unfulfilling, dead-end life and joins the fraternity, determined to actualize his inner assassin. This process involves ogling Angelina Jolie's creepy back tattoos and learning how to shoot bullets so they curve.
Now, you probably think that an assassin is, by definition, a "bad guy." Ready to have your world rocked? Here goes: This fraternity of assassins are also "weavers," and fraternity leader Morgan Freeman has a magical loom that weaves a magical fabric whose magical threads reveal who the assassins are supposed to kill next, thereby absolving them from all personal responsibility for the lives they take. (I am not making this up.) Wanted's assassins aren't soulless, profiteering killers—they're the hired guns of fate. They're good assassins. Nice assassins. Helpful assassins.
One of the most absolutely asinine plots in recent memory (weavers?) could perhaps be forgiven if this movie was more fun to look at, but it just isn't: The only visual trick director Timur Bekmambetov (who previously helmed Night Watch and Day Watch) has up his sleeve is the curvy bullet thing, and that exhausts its minimal appeal right quick. The ultimate indication of Wanted's irredeemability is that after two hours of wincing through this mess, McAvoy's face started to look a lot less pretty.