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Wanted | James McAvoy goes from zero to hero

I can’t see the name of James McAvoy ever becoming an object of speculation as a future big-screen James Bond, but he’s been ideally cast as the protagonist of Wanted, a dizzyingly frenetic action thriller based upon the comic-book series by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones.

McAvoy’s Wesley Gibson is a drippy office drone who is bullied by his boss at work and cuckolded by his girlfriend at home, yet he goes from zero to hero on learning that his destiny is linked to a secret fraternity of super-assassins. He discovers this calling after Angelina Jolie’s slinky, hyper-cool hit-woman, Fox, pounces upon him in his local supermarket and whisks him away to the organisation’s HQ following a ferocious gun battle and even more hair-raising car chase.

Wanted - Angelina Jolie as super-assassin Fox

Wesley’s hardly caught his breath before fraternity leader Sloan (Morgan Freeman) seizes the chance to enlighten him – and us – on his history. It turns out that the unwitting Wesley is the son of a recently murdered super-assassin and has inherited his dad’s extraordinary talents.

Before long, he’s embarked on an arduous course of training in which he learns how to fire bullets round corners and other useful tricks of the trade. His goal is to carry out his revenge on fraternity renegade Cross (Thomas Kretschmann), but Wesley’s mission is far murkier than it first appears…

It’s all tosh, of course, typical adolescent wish-fulfillment fantasy, but  McAvoy throws himself into his preposterous role with gusto, while Russian-Kazakh director Timur Bekmambetov, maker of cult favourites Night Watch and Day Watch, delivers audacious action and jaw-dropping stunts that will have fan boys of all ages hyperventilating with excitement.

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.