The film opens with a helping of Matrix set up and a McAvoy voiceover telling us all about how much his life sucks stuck in his office job and how his dad left a week after he was born. This could be the guy we just witnessed get blown away after jumping through plate glass across the Chicago skyline and killing 4 assassins on the opposite building. This trite and badly staged intro is made more surreal due to the fact that this is the first time we’ve seen Mac putting on an American accent. In fact the whole first act of this film screams “set-up” and brings you out of the film. However, it becomes a little more worth it when Fox (Jolie) shows up and the bullets rain and rubber is burned. Even more so after Gibson (Mac) wakes up the next day with a attitude that actually feels believable (the whiney kid bit at the outset feels more like a role for Hayden Christiensen). One of the best scenes in the film occurs when he finally gets fed up at work and gives his tormentors their due. After which he is scooped up by Fox and his assassin’s training begins.
The Fraternity, (a little too on the nose) as they are called consist of a gunsmith named Gunsmith (Common), a knife guy, a healer and they're all lead by Morgan Freeman (Sloan, or Ra’s al Guhl). Gibson is told that his father (indeed the dead guy) was one of the worlds greatest killers and that he has inherited some of his “powers” that just need to be harvested in order to kill Cross – a rogue member who took out daddy and a lot of other frat boys. What follows is an extended montage wherein we are introduced to the world through our hero and he is broken down so that his skill level can be built up. We are also introduced to the great power the Fraternity believe in… 1000 thread count sheets!! They were started by weavers who discovered the secret of binary code in their weaves and thus decided they should kill people (Cross for some reason questioned this).
This all sounds completely ridiculous and it is. The comic the film was based on pretty much stole from a whole lot of other yarns (pun intended) and what wasn’t stolen is the least believable stuff but is all just a place to hang the action. And what fine action it is. Timur Bekmambetov brings a lot of his creative techniques that made the Night Watch films so great but tones it down just a bit and it really fits perfectly. The set pieces are expertly staged and never (ok once) feel like a Michael Bay looky-what-I-can-do moment. As the killing starts an the chance is joined our cardboard characters pursue Cross around the world but just when you think things are gonna go in a different direction the Empire Strikes Back leading up to the big finale with a V for Vendetta round the room bit and a lot of exploding rats (Willard maybe?)
Once Mac gets going he’s actually an ok action star though he might need a few more improving montages before he can take on Bale or Jackman. Freeman uses his persona to good effect here especially in the final act where he gets some big lines and even bigger laughs. Jolie as I said earlier had very little dialogue despite a large amount of onscreen time but they way she exudes confidence eliminates the need for words. This is a fun summer spectacular and as such the brain should be left in the Abby Normal jar on the shelf but as far as summer blockbusters go this bests all but Iron Man so far this year.