Wanted, 18

The night pistol-packing Angelina told me the way to go

Squeezed between the exploits of Iron Man, Batman and the summer's other superheroes, this week there are two edgier, grungier takes on the crime-fighting genre.

The higher profile of the two is Wanted, starring James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie. McAvoy, who nearly has an American accent, plays a timid accountant, so downtrodden that he doesn't think to object when his best friend and his girlfriend embark on an affair.

After a long sequence borrowed from Fight Club, detailing just how miserable he is, wish-fulfilment in the sinewy shape of Jolie strides into his life with a colossal gun and even more tattoos than usual. She tells him that the father he never knew was once the world's deadliest assassin, and it's McAvoy's turn to join the family business.

It's about now that the film departs from its source material. Wanted is based on Mark Millar's riotously un-PC comic book series set on an Earth where all the superheroes have been wiped out, and the super-villains are in charge. But while the film version has an almost identical opening to the comics, it then misses out all the stuff about supervillains, which is akin to making a James Bond film without any of the secret agents.

McAvoy's father, says Jolie, belonged to an elite band of killers led by Morgan Freeman. They have their targets chosen for them by a magical "loom of fate", and their fascist creed deems that anyone with an inherited talent for homicide is superior to all those losers who don't murder strangers on a daily basis. McAvoy signs up, and an extensive training regimen ensues. Much like Iron Man, Wanted is so fascinated by the process of the hero developing his abilities that the bit when the hero actually gets to use those abilities – otherwise known as the story – is left as an afterthought. Borrowing shamelessly from The Terminator and The Matrix, it's striking how stylish and fun Wanted is initially, when it sticks to the original comic, and it's equally striking how overblown and waffly it gets when it veers off in its own direction.

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