In his Guardian review of Wanted, Peter Bradshaw writes that the film "plays like a party political broadcast on behalf of the misogynist party." I don't disagree with this assessment--it's a truly, truly awful movie--but sadly I don't share Bradshaw's surprise at the film's misogyny.
Bradshaw goes on to write that in the film "womankind is represented by irrelevant sleek babes and obese comic foils, an ugly whorehouse aesthetic which really does sock over its contempt for femaleness very, very powerfully indeed." While this is true, it's hardly unusual. The film gives us three female characters--lead antihero Wes (James McAvoy) begins the movie with both a nagging, cheating girlfriend (Kristen Hager) and a bitchy, always-eating, "comically obese" boss (Lorna Scott), both of whom he resents and immediately ditches when he finds out his other options, coming back only to insult and humiliate them further, in case the viewer missed out on the hatred of them the first time. For the majority of the film, however, the only female character is Wes' assassin trainer, Fox (Angelina Jolie).
And though Jolie has her fair share of badass moves and I did get a little thrill out of her kicking her reluctant pupil's ass, she really doesn't shine here. Nothing about her character sets her apart as a heroine, rather than just another soldier who can also be used as bait sexually. As Bradshaw points out, she "did the assassin role with considerably more wit and charm in Mr. and Mrs. Smith." This role is certainly nothing like that one. What it does remind me of, however, is Jolie's embarrassing appearance in Gone in Sixty Seconds.
Even if Jolie had excelled in the role of Fox, though, there would still be a problem with her playing it. As Racialicious' Latoya Peterson explains, in the graphic novel on which the film Wanted is based, Fox is a woman of color (you can see her as she is drawn here). Yet, whoever made the movie's casting decisions decided not to use an actress of color, but instead gave the part to Jolie. This is bad enough in and of itself, but is compounded when you realize that the movie's major villain, Sloan (Morgan Freeman), is also its only major black character. The character of Sloan doesn't exactly exist in the comic, but the comic villains are not black. So what we have is one of the film's only moral and upright characters, and only strong female, turned from black to white, while the villain is turned from white to black. Not hard to see the racism there.
Not only does Wanted fail all possible Heroine Content tests for both racism and sexism, it's just a bad movie, and it's a rip-off. For the first twenty minutes you are watching Fight Club, only not as good, and then you start watching The Matrix, only not as a good. It's a frustrating waste of time and an insult to the everyone involved in it. Skip it.