It's a trippy, kinetic, no-brains-required bit of hyperviolence that reminded me a lot of other "shoot-'em-up" movies like The Transporter, Transporter 2, Crank, or the aptly named Shoot 'Em Up, with the primary difference being that rather than our hero starting out as an uber-fighting gun-wielding walking machine of pure badass, we see him as a disaffected office worker plucked from his mundane life and trained up into that type. People on the Internet have likened the film to the themes of Fight Club meet the action of The Matrix, but although James McAvoy has an Ed Norton-in-Fight Club-esque narration in the first act, his problems reminded me a lot less of Ed Norton's all-consuming nihilism and commentary on societal ills and more of the self-loathing of the protagonist in Office Space. So I'm gonna go with Office Space meets Transporter 2, just with a lot more blood.
That's one of the things that makes the film a minor joy - in these pussified days of the PG-13 summer blockbuster, this movie is a nice hard R and proud of it. There's no tits, but the profanity flies like mad and more importantly flying is the blood and guts. There's gory stabbings and bloody beatings and brain-spewing headshots and all the good stuff that you rarely see a studio put some money and some stars behind these days in a summer flick, all done with tongue mostly planted in cheek, and as a fan of a little bit of vile hyperviolence, I applaud it for that. Some of the action scenes, like the one I described in the first paragraph, are fairly inventive, and about as ridiculously over-the-top as anything you've seen since The Matrix only ten times moreso since it actually purports to take place in the real world - a real world where people can curve bullets and literally shoot the wings off flies.
Shying away from the Jason Statham / Clive Owen uber-testorone type, the casting of James McAvoy (who does a perfect job masking his European accent, unlike certain actors named Jim Sturgess in certain movies named 21) as the living avatar of hyperviolence is clever and fairly effective. He doesn't have a weighty movie star screen presence but he brings a bit of everyman charm that lets the viewer place himself in his shoes. Angelina Jolie plays his mentor-turned-sidekick and she's just the opposite - while she may not technically be the best actress she really is a born movie star, with a magnetic, electrifying screen presence that fills the frame. And there's Morgan Freeman, who plays roles ranging from a deep, wise, mentorly deity (Bruce Almighty) to a deep, wise, mentorly U.S. President (Deep Impact), to a deep, wise, mentorly ally of Batman or Robin Hood, to a deep, wise, mentorly cowboy (Unforgiven), to a deep, wise, mentorly detective / policeman (Se7en, Gone Baby Gone), here playing a dark twist on his persona as a deep, wise, mentorly assassin lord. The entertainment of Morgan Freeman saying "motherfucker!" is justification for the ticket price.
It is what it is, gleefully and wickedly, and the only real critique I have to offer that isn't nitpicking (to complain about brainlessness in this kind of movie would be missing the point) is that the climax isn't really that spectacular, and is rather overshadowed by a considerably more imaginative action sequence near the end of the second act. But nonetheless, I recommend the flick to anyone who enjoys the other hyperviolence movies I mentioned above. This is probably the bloodiest and goofiest fun on the big screen this summer.
3 Stars out of 5