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“Girls just wanna have guns.”

This is probably a borderline Girls With Guns flick, but Angelina Jolie is the nearest thing we have to a legitimated action-heroine superstar: Lara Croft, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and now this, where her character, the uber-assassin Fox, is certainly the most interesting in the film. Office drone Wesley (McAvoy) discovers his true heritage is in The Fraternity, a group of killers who surgically remove bad elements from society, as their names come up encoded in a cloth woven by a mystical loom. However, one of their number has gone rogue, and Cross (Kretschmann) is now taking out his former colleagues, one by one. Recruiting, training and using Wesley, is the only hope they have to stop the renegade.

Based on a comic-book. That phrase covers a whole spectrum of results, good and bad. Here, this means hyperkinetic action scenes with only a tenuous connection to reality. If you’ve seen the director’s previous work – such as Night Watch and its sequel Day Watch – you’ll know what to expect, and he gets to crank it up here, with a significantly-bigger budget, and a better cast. There are some brilliant set-pieces, not least the sequence where Fox rescues Wesley, and also a fabulous sequence on a high-speed train. It plays like a high-octane remix of Office Space and The Matrix: not, perhaps, up to the brilliant levels of either, yet an interesting hybrid that is still a great deal of fun, in a highly-caffeinated way.

Less well known, this is not Tikmanbetov’s first piece of Girls With Guns cinema, as before coming to Hollywood’s attention with Night Watch, he also did The Arena, a remake of a Roger Corman movie. The original had Pam Grier – the remake, didn’t, and let’s leave it at that. Fox is rather different from the incarnation in the comic [closer there to Halle Berry than anything], yet still has more backstory than Wesley, on her tattooed arms alone; while a sequel seems likely, it looks unlikely to involve her, and that’s a shame. Still, when you see Jolie climbing out on the bonnet of her high-performance sports-car, and blazing away like a heavily-armed hood ornament, you’ll understand exactly why it qualifies here.

Dir: Timur Bekmambetov
Star: James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Thomas Kretschmann, Morgan Freeman

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