Director: Jonathan Lynn | 98 minutes | action, drama, comedy, crime | Actors: Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, Rupert Grint, Rupert Everett, Eileen Atkins, Martin Freeman, Gregor Fisher, Geoff Bell, Rory Kinnear, Duncan Duff, Graham Seed, James O’Donnell, George Rainsford, Alexis Rodney, Sia Berkeley, Jenny Crosdale, Philip Battley, Neil D’Souza, Adrian Schiller, Jonathan Lynn
Nice, but completely wacky crime comedy with Bill Nighy in one of his crazy roles as the high-school hitman Victor Maynard. Making an attempt to explain the plot would fail in advance, not only because it would give too much away, but mainly because there is no tie to it. An incomprehensible plot is often the death knell for a movie, but “Wild Target” does his best to get away with it very lightly and with a special sense of humor. That doesn’t quite work out, but the film has enough charm (mainly thanks to the excellent cast) to remain fascinating and entertaining.
The film is a remake of the French black comedy “Cible émouvante” with Jean Rochefort (as Victor Meynard and wearing a similar mustache to Nighy). “Wild Target” was in turn released in France as “Petits meurtres a l” Anglaise “to add to the confusion. Did the successful aspects of the film come about despite – and not thanks to – director Jonathan Lynn? Probably. He delivers an unbalanced movie that mis-times some comedic scenes and doesn’t seem really adept at the “action” aspects of the story. He’s lucky with his actors, who still manage to pull things off quite smoothly. This is positive for Emily Blunt. As the radiant centerpiece Rose, a thief and con man, she has flair, intelligence and seems to have a lot of fun in her role too. In striking outfits and with or without a wig, she sways smoothly and with playful ease through her scenes. The fact that the plot requires her to behave like a frightened teenage girl towards Victor, is all the more difficult for the viewer to digest because of her further performance.
Opinions differ about Bill Nighy: he is known for the strange tics of his characters and almost never plays a “normal” person. For some, Nighy’s manners and manner of speaking are extremely annoying, others walk away with him precisely because of his special way of acting. Enthusiasts will love it, but those who don’t like it will find little reason to change their minds in Wild Target. Anyway, with his dull banker look (pinstripe suit, tie, center part with neat mustache) and his Francophile expressions – he spends his time practicing French phrases – he’s a very unusual hit man. His rather disturbed mother (Eileen Atkins) thinks Victor should settle down at 55 and continue the skills of generations of hitmen in his family. How lucky then that he bumped into Rose. Or rather, that he is ordered to kill her after she cheated the villainous art dealer Ferguson (an amusing Rupert Everett) with a forged Rembrandt.
On the way and on the run, Victor and Rose also pick up Tony (Rupert Grint), who acts as a helper and can possibly be trained as Victor’s successor. Grint manages to shake off his most famous role to date (that of Ron Weasley in the “Harry Potter” series), but the question is how great his potential as an actor really is. The film has enough complications, illogical twists and typical British humor to fill up to three films, but Lynn makes quite a mess of it and occasionally leaves the whole thing in the soup. That’s a real shame, because there could have been more in “Wild Target” than it takes out. Perhaps that is why the film has hardly been released in the cinemas and is released on DVD and Blu-ray after all.