“Imagine one thousand!”
Put Angelina Jolie’s stunt arse in something, and you will make hundreds of millions of dollars. Place the gentle Scotsman James McAvoy in a movie as a pathetic and then ultra disgruntled American that you’re supposed to cheer and … I can’t speak for everyone else, but I know I was disturbed by the message of this piece: ultra macho posturing, and a meditation on what it means to be a man.
For those wondering what it means to be a man in today’s workaday world, it’s about bottling your rage and then letting it out in huge destructive bursts; it’s about not being a “pussy” and about “growing a pair”.
And they wonder why I despair of modern masculinity.
Some spoilers for this Godforsaken Hell hole!
Wesley Gibson (McAvoy) is pathetic: his boss is an overweight, overbearing harridan, his girlfriend is cheating on him with his “best friend”, and his answer to this is to swear at it in voice over. When Fox (Angelina Jolie) appears in front of him at the pharmacy (where he considers himself a “pussy”, because he takes a medication to deal with his crippling anxiety attacks – yes, this movie doesn’t have a very good message, you may already have noticed), and he gets shot at by Cross (Thomas Kretschmann), he is told that he is the son of a great killer and is inducted into “The Fraternity”, a group of assassins who have been around for a thousand years.
After half of the movie is taken up by training, we learn how the Fraternity gets their contracts: the Loom of Fate writes the names of their targets in binary.
Yes, you read that right: a Loom … writes in binary code on threads … and tells the Fraternity who to kill. This movie is really, really stupid. Having been told that Cross killed his father, and having undergone six weeks of training, Wesley is the ultimate machine, travels to Europe, has an incredibly stupid train caper, and, seriously, fuck this movie.
See, get this: Morgan Freeman has been tampering with the Loom of Fate since it produced his own name, and that Cross (who, it turns out, is Wesley’s real father) was excommunicated for trying to expose him. Having been tricked into killing his own father and having escaped Fox’s clutches, Wesley vows revenge – and how does he achieve this goal? By strapping explosives to a thousand rats and setting them free in the Fraternity’s headquarters. No, I’m not fucking kidding you here: exploding rats. When Morgan Freeman tells the surviving members of the Fraternity (Wesley kinda killed the rest of them indiscriminately to get to the top) that the Loom of Fate had produced all of their names in time, Common says “Fuck the Code!” and Fox fires off a single bullet that curves around the whole room in a circle, killing the entire Fraternity (save Morgan Freeman) and herself.
Why they didn’t call into question Morgan Freeman’s bargaining chip, having been provided evidence that he tampers with fate, we’ll never know: they’re all dead, like idiots. Kind of makes you regret ever having been born, seeing this film.
Probably the strangest part of the whole exercise is that in the last few minutes of the film, Wesley’s voice over begins to insult the audience: “until recently, I was average and pathetic, just like you.” The last line of the movie involves him directly addressing the camera: “This is me taking back control of my life. What the fuck have you done lately?”
No, really, we’re supposed to leave on that note. There’s nothing in the credits, it’s just we’re being told that, over the course of the last two hours Wesley Gibson has learned to shoot and just generally be a total jerk instead of a stupid milquetoast, and what have we done? We saw this lousy movie that manages to suggest that violence is going to make you feel better about yourself; instead of watching it, we should have been out there shooting up everyone who ever crossed us.
In the end I couldn’t help thinking how much better it would have been if McAvoy had played the movie not as Wesley Gibson but as Mr. Tumnus. I, for one, would be first in line to see the inevitable cinematic masterpiece The Faun Identity. It’s a pity that we’ve been saddled with this sorry sack of whatever-the-fuck instead.