2010 Wild Target: A Throwback to an Earlier Era of Comedy
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Critics 33% | Audience 56%
Directed By: Jonathan Lynn
Written By: Lucinda Coxon
In Theaters: Oct 29, 2010 Limited
On Disc/Streaming: Feb 8, 2011
** ½ Steven Rea
Philadelphia Inquirer Top Critic
A throwback to an earlier era of comedy when silliness needed no subtext and soundtracks tooted along on gusts of whimsy, Wild Target is a slight screwball thriller. Yet it's worth seeing (1) for Bill Nighy doing his drop-dead deadpan, (2) for Emily Blunt being, well, Emily Blunt, and (3) to see what Ron Weasley is up to when he's not running around with that sorcerer pal, battling Voldemort and the nasty Horcruxes.
Yes, Harry Potter's Rupert Grint, sporting a scruffy beard and a pack of cigarettes, is the third of Wild Target's threesome. Grint is Tony, a callow fellow who believes he is apprenticing to be a private detective. Alas, his mentor, Victor Maynard (Nighy), is actually a professional assassin, hired, this time, to knock off Rose (Blunt), a fetching scam artist who has seriously upset a mobbed-up art collector (Rupert Everett). But Victor can't bring himself to kill Rose - he's not sure why, exactly - and so he and she and Tony scamper around being pursued by a posse of hit men.
Directed by Jonathan Lynn, whose more successful romps include My Cousin Vinny and The Whole Nine Yards (another hit- man comedy), Wild Target is the sort of farce where nothing, essentially, is at stake, even as cars crash (including an original Mini Cooper), bullets rip, and knives get hurled with deadly velocity.
So, the film has to fly by its wits - and its witty lines - and by the charm of its stars.
This it does, just barely. Writer Lucinda Coxon delivers enough drolleries and a workable running gag or two. Nighy plays dry and (not really) sinister with ease and aplomb, while Blunt is seductive and impertinent and appears to be enjoying herself immensely (perhaps too immensely). And Grint is the straight man - which isn't that easy when you're in a bubble bath and just may have been propositioned by a guy. The one thing I didn't get - probably because of some inside joke - was the constant mentions of the problems with Google's search results revealing private information. Apparently the characters are complaining about an old shoplifting arrest that now shows up in searches for someone's name and how that is preventing them from acquiring their dream job. While in real life this is actually a real problem often requiring intervention by a specialist who can delete search results from Google, that fact is kind of lost in the chaos. Every time someone says Google must be regulated, that line is meant to be humorous, but it becomes just schtick after a while. I counted 5 times where the dialog mentions, in a snarky way, that Google stress might lower one's IQ, cause your hair to fall out, or attract zombies. Lines were funny even if I didn't have the full story.
A beefier and bearded Everett, and Eileen Atkins - as Victor's mother in a rest home (doing a quickie homage to Psycho) - also seem to be having a good time.
Directed by Jonathan Lynn. With Stephanie Lammond, Rupert Grint, Bill Nighy, Gregor Fisher, Philip Battley, Emily Blunt, Rupert Everett, Martin Freeman, Graham Seed, Eileen Atkins. Distributed by Freestyle Releasing.
Running time: 1 hours, 28 minutes.
Parent's guide: PG-13 (for violence, some sexual content and brief strong language).
New York Post Top Critic
Ace British character actor Bill Nighy (“Pirate Radio”) teams up with the ever-delicious Emily Blunt in Jonathan Lynn’s “Wild Target,” an eccentric little comic thriller filled with enough laughs that I was mostly willing to overlook the fact that it makes virtually no sense as a thriller.
Having great fun playing against his usual wild-and-crazy types, Nighy is Victor, a middle-aged, highly-paid hit man who is such a fussbudget that his own elderly mother (Eileen Atkins) wonders if her never-married son has gay “tendencies.”
Victor has been hired by a real estate mogul, Ferguson (Rupert Everett), to take out Rose (Blunt), a glamorous swindler who sold the mogul a fake Rembrandt.
The planned assassination in a garage is interrupted by the arrival of a second hit man — who is shot to death by Tony (Rupert Grint), a not-so-innocent bystander who was burgling cars.
For reasons that neither Victor nor Lucinda Coxon’s script (based on a French film) can adequately explain, Victor decides to flee with Rose and Tony to a hotel, where their room turns out to be down the hall from Ferguson’s.
The trio improbably decamps to Victor’s home in the countryside, where the furniture has plastic coverings and his invalid mom pops in from the nursing home at opportune moments.
At one point, it’s suggested that Victor is sexually attracted to the pot-smoking, frequently shirtless Tony — who doesn’t seem to be at all interested in Rose.
That idea is quickly dropped, though, in favor of a more conventional (if equally improbable) romance between Victor and the reckless Rose.
There are several well-staged chases and comic set pieces devised by Lynn, a Brit who is best-known in this country for “My Cousin Vinny” and “The Whole Nine Yards.”
Lynn provides nice change-of-pace roles for Blunt (trapped in period roles in “The Young Victoria” and “The Wolfman”) and Grint, who seems to enjoy channeling Jon Heder during this vacation from his decade-long stint as Ron Weasley in the “Harry Potter” series.
If you are willing to check your brain at the popcorn stand, you can have a lot of fun watching “Wild Target.”