In the opinion of many genre-film fans, the most visually arresting images of the past half-decade didn't come from the works of Spielberg, Fincher, Aronofsky or Tarantino. Instead, they were conceived by Timur Bekmambetov, the affable Russian whose "Night Watch"/"Day Watch" series has captured the razzle-dazzle of Hollywood's blockbusters for mere pennies on the dollar.
His loyal fanbase has long wondered what it would be like if Bekmambetov ever got his hands on an American production. In nine months, they'll have their answer.
" 'Wanted' is an embracement of a new reality," said Bekmambetov, admitting that his tenuous grip on the English language is less of a liability given the international language of the action flick. "I'm just trying to be myself. It's understood that [my American cast and I] are the same, and the same things make us tick."
Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Common and James McAvoy are just a few of the high-powered stars who hunted down Bekmambetov when they heard he was making "Wanted," a slick comic book thriller that's been called a "Watchmen" for supervillains (see "Common Exclusive: MC To Act Alongside Angelina Jolie In Ultra-Violent 'Wanted' "). Calling in from the Prague set to promote his currently in-theaters "Day Watch," the director gave us an exclusive preview of the next world he's creating.
" 'Wanted' is the story of a young boy who discovers that his father is a member of an evil organization that controls the world — when he gets killed, the boy wants revenge," the director said of the "Bourne Identity"-like setup, which casts "Last King of Scotland" star McAvoy as the villainous protagonist. "It's a comic book movie, but it looks real. For me, it's the same experience as 'Night Watch' and 'Day Watch' because what we are trying to do is tell a fantasy story with real drama and without conventions. Every time, we are undercutting it with reality."
Based on Mark Millar's stunning graphic-novel series, "Wanted" gives us an angst-ridden, 25-year-old cubicle slave (think "Fight Club") laid low by a disloyal girlfriend and a domineering boss. After discovering that his late dad was a member of the Fraternity — a secret league of assassins — he realizes he's been blessed with extraordinary powers that make him a perfect recruit. With help from some atypical tutors, he soon finds himself carrying out the death orders of the Fates, literal weavers of every human's lifeline.
"This is 'Night Watch' and 'Day Watch' but four times together," Bekmambetov said of the film's scope. "It's much, much bigger. We built a huge textile factory in Prague. ... The production designer, John Myhre, made 'X-Men,' 'Chicago' and 'Memoirs of a Geisha.' He's built this huge set, and we've created a mythology in this world of weavers."
Although the violent/sexy, reality/fantasy mix would seem to play to the strengths of Jolie in particular, Bekmambetov is quick to insist that the film won't be "Tomb Raider 3."
"Angelina had seen 'Night Watch,' and she liked it," he said, referring to the trippy flick that broke Russian box-office records before its successful run in the States last year. " 'Wanted' is something new for her; she just wants to do something new every time, and I like that. She understands what it means to be with our team.
"Young people will like [McAvoy's Wesley Gibson] because he is very sarcastic, very smart, very provocative and very solid as a character," the filmmaker continued. "Angelina has a lot of interesting dramatic moments with James. They will love each other, and they will hate each other. She's a teacher who will bring James into this world and teach him how to be different, be a killer."
Along the way, Wesley will also encounter the Gunsmith, a tough-guy character played by actor/rapper Common. "We shot him today, in a scene with a gun," Bekmambetov said excitedly. "He teaches people how to use guns. He's a professional gunman."
Finally, Bekmambetov revealed one more piece of casting, saying he wanted to keep an old friend around for his new gig: "We have Konstantin Khabensky, Anton from 'Night Watch.' He's playing in this movie, too, and he has a very funny character."
The director said he plans to once again create a reality brimming with visual revelations — and then take it all apart. "We will create a world, and then we will destroy this world," he laughed. "The hero will discover the whole world. It looks ordinary, but it's not. It's an industrial world filled with weaving machines, lots of traps, lot of looms flying back and forth and predicting the future. The looms weave these fabrics, and the fabrics have a pattern, like a binary code, that has information. The weavers can read the fabric — they see the structure of it and they can read its messages. Then they know who has to be killed to keep the balance of the world."
Sure, it seems hard to explain — but then again, try describing "Day Watch" or "Night Watch" to someone who can't simply sit back and soak in the visual feasts.
When all is said and done, there's only one more thing that Bekmambetov wants us to know about the flick. "We're on track for next March," he said.
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