Viewed – 25 May 2008  Cinema

In this age of computer generated special effects, the summer block-buster it seems is all about bigger, better, louder.  This film is no exception as unlike more subtle fair like The Bourne Ultimatum or Shooter…everything that can be imagined is thrown at the screen to an overwhelming degree, and all thoughts of reality and believability go out of the window.

James McAvoy, not your first choice for action movie lead, as he’s quite scrawny – plays a nerdy office worker stereo-type who’s best friend is having it away with James’ girlfriend, he hates his job, has an annoying boss, little money and generally is as depressed as hell.  Step in Angelina Jolie (offering up another bad-ass babe to her already crowded CV) as a tattooed gun-toting assassin who saves James’ life and then embroils him in a top secret assassination agency known as The Fraternity.  Headed by Morgan Freeman, James is trained to be a deadly assassin, following in the foot steps of his father.

In amongst all this we get some of the most over-the-top action sequences you’re likely to see, with some superb special effects, more than a nod to The Matrix (the story itself seems a tribute to The Wackowski Brothers’ masterpiece with a similar search for ‘the one’), and a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour that helps to not take this too seriously.  James McAvoy makes for a likable and thankfully relatable lead in amongst all the bad-asses, even if throughout he looks awkward and a little out of his depth in furious gun battles and car chases – but maybe that was the point.  Jolie is seriously sexy if a bit one-dimensional, and Morgan Freeman as ever is a joy to watch, even if these days this kind of role must be as natural to him as farting.

For me, I feel the movie would have benefited by toning down some of the action, holding back on some of the slow-motion camera work and generally not trying to make everything look cool just for the sake of it – but then again, this is the CGI age, and I suppose if I was a director I would have trouble holding back with such wonderful toys at hand.  As the Hollywood debut of Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch, Day Watch), this sparks as an impressive effort despite its ludicrous nature…and proves him to be an action auteur to rival the best of ’em.

Verdict:  3 /5

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