Thank God for Angelina Jolie—and not because she donates millions of dollars to needy children, either. She's the only legit female action movie star in Hollywood, a title she's been holding down by consistently kicking ass in everything from Gone in Sixty Seconds to the Lara Croft movies to Mr. and Mrs. Smith. In Wanted the ass-kicking hits a new level: As Fox, an assassin who recruits cubicle-dweller Wesley (James McAvoy) into a secret band of killers, Angelina wields the craziest weapons—huge machine guns outfitted with rearview mirrors, curving bullets, and even her own tattooed body, which she bends, twists and surrenders to her violent cause as if it were a lover or a drug. Her in-control, no -compromises, baddest-bitch Fox makes for powerful stuff on screen, in a perfect popcorn movie that itself takes action movies to new heights.
Right from go, Wanted floors the gas pedal with back-to-back action sequences in the first 25 minutes (including a beyond-over-the-top car chase) and never loses adrenaline. Director Timur Bekmambetov endows the movie with a kind of stylized visual wit and balls-out consequence-free action that may remind you of Fight Club and The Matrix, a style which the Russian helmer honed on his wildly successful Night Watch movies and now completely owns.
Right after Fox weaves and slashes her Spider through the streets of Chicago with Wesley in the passenger seat in that chase scene, the pair arrive at an old factory, where Wesley learns that his father once belonged to a band of righteous assassins called the Fraternity. The group takes its orders to "kill one, save a thousand" from Fate itself, via an old textile loom—a premise that would be even more laughable than it sounds, were it not for the solid acting throughout the film. McAvoy is effective and relatable as Wesley, an office-drone everyman so desperate to give his life meaning, that he is ready to believe that he is destined to follow in pop's bloody footsteps—but not before resisting with the desperate bravado of a wounded, cornered dog. Morgan Freeman uses his dignified mien and that voice to give his Sloan, the leader of the Fraternity, an undeniable, slightly scary authority—and then outdoes himself by pouring a bit of Samuel L. Jackson-ease into the mix. One of his late lines in the movie is a riotous surprise and may well be this summer's version of "get these motherf*cking snakes off this motherf*cking plane."