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Stars: James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Thomas Kretschmann, Terence Stamp, Common, Marc Warren

Director: Timur Bekmambetov

A very violent, very noisy, very flashy, high adrenalin action thriller, calculated to catch the eye at every corner, but preposterous even by today's Hollywood standards. A buffed-up McAvoy, with a decent if occasionally annoying US accent, plays Wesley, a deskbound nerd with a faithless girlfriend (Kristen Hager) and a dead-end flat next to a railway line, who suddenly finds himself being trained as a super-assassin to avenge his father's murder.

Beatings with knives, knuckledusters and plain ol' fists and feet leave Wesley battered and bleeding in the course of toughening him up (would have thought it might have had the opposite effect!). But then, beset by repetitive strain injury and anxiety attacks at the office, Wes is a patsy for his new job after he learns that his father, an ace assassin himself, had been shot by a rogue killer who had broken away from The Fraternity, a group who, led by Freeman and Jolie, get rid of powerful bad guys.

Wes, if you can believe it, has the ability to shoot around corners and is soon using it to exterminate those his new bosses consider to be a blight on society.

There's lots of action and car-chasing, all of it to be slotted into the 'scarcely believable' category, and numerous continuity slips by the Russian director, who made the boring Day Watch and Night Watch films. Jolie seems to get the worst of these: in one scene she's wearing high heels when she jumps on to the roof of a train. Once there, she's changed to more serviceable flats. In another sequence, the car in which she's chasing a train is not the one she's just stolen.

A newly-muscled McAvoy is pretty much OK as the central character. Other actors are scarcely stretched by their roles. It's mutton dressed up as lamb, but it will keep you watching.

David Quinlan

USA 2007. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour by deluxe.
110 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 26 Jun 2008