'Wanted' Ups The Action Ante, But Afterparty Leaves Us Thirsty


Defamer crashed Westwood on Thursday for the opening night of the Los Angeles Film Festival, which hosted the world premiere of Wanted and a whiskey-fueled Broxton Ave. block party to wash the whole thing down. Not that there was so much to digest (cubicle slave James McAvoy meets assassin trainer Angelina Jolie; bullet hails ensue) but we can't deny Wanted is as exhausting as it is kind of dumbly enthralling; for every exquisite gunfight there's at least one baffling plot inversion, and for every potent Jolie scowl there's a grating McAvoy whimper.

Still, Night Watch director Timur Bekmambitov's English-language debut made for refreshing R-rated viewing after this summer's succession of lackluster action fare; even his most garish visual flourishes — particularly McAvoy's keyboard-smashing exploits yielding computer keys and a dislodged tooth spelling "FUCK YOU" in midair — seem more inspired, even heartfelt than their absurd CGI analogs in Indy 4 or The Incredible Hulk. But he can even shock with simplicity, such as a Jolie entrance we're loath to spoil. Then there's a train derailment for the ages, and... oh, fine. We kind of loved it.

We thought it over on the shuttle from the Majestic Crest to the palm-toothed maw of the after-party. Alas, we couldn't get our compliments and maybe a round of Five Questions in with the talent, which was sequestered off-limits from the drunken, unwashed public on Broxton. "Do you have a ticket?" a bouncer asked.

"A ticket for what?" we replied.

"You gotta have a ticket."

"No, but..." we muttered, looking down at our press badge. "What are you talking about?"

"Universal only."

"Do you know who the fuck we are?" we didn't scream, reaching for our phones. Minutes later our publicity contact left us hanging as well (memo to all: "Defamer" is not actually a literal means of coverage), forcing us back to the bar, where we drank away our perfunctory Russian lessons and scrolled a bit of other news to come out of the fest's first day:

—Gigantic Releasing picked up the competition documentary Must Read After My Death — a painstakingly assembled flash back to the '60s, when a "bold family experiment slowly and inexorably descended into a mire of confusion and turmoil, speeded along by a battalion of psychiatrists." A guaranteed laugh riot to start your weekend, Must Read premieres tonight the Landmark.

—Lance Hammer's acclaimed drama Ballast, which was one of the relatively few titles to leave this year's Sundance Film Festival with a distribution deal, opted out of its pact with IFC Films and jumped over to Strand Releasing. "The budget was big enough that it would be hard in the current model to see that money back," Hammer told Variety. "In the old days, when distributors gave a larger minimum guarantee, that would have been a totally different story. Nobody can afford to do that anymore." The parting was "amicable," we hear, which is no fun at all. More cataclysm, please, people!