Title: Wild Target
Directed By: Jonathan Lynn
Starring: Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, Rupert Grint, Rupert Everett, Eileen Atkins
You’d think working with a story that’s already been made into a feature film would give a writer a head start and make certain pitfalls easier to avoid, however, that’s certainly not the case for Lucinda Coxon and her version of the 1993 French film, Cible Emouvante, Wild Target. Not only is her script sloppy and ludicrous, but then it wound up in the hands of director Jonathan Lynn who opted to send it further into a whirlwind of silliness. It’s the cast of Wild Target that deserves all of the credit for they somehow managed to turn this mess not only into a watchable film, but a somewhat entertaining one, too.
Victor Maynard (Bill Nighy) is a bit of a mama’s boy, but that doesn’t mean he’s a guy you want to mess with. Victor comes from a family of professional assassins and he’s bred to be the best of the best. Other than his mother (Eileen Atknis), Victor has little social contact except perhaps during the final moments before he sends a bullet through an assignment’s skull. He’s precise, methodical, takes pride in his work and, best of all, his mother is proud of him.
Everything changes when Victor is hired to kill Rose (Emily Blunt), a con artist who tries to pull a fast one on a wealthy gangster named Ferguson (Rupert Everett) by swapping his Rembrandt self portrait with a fake. This would just be business as usual, but there’s something about Rose that throws Victor off his game and turns the whole operation into a comedic calamity. Victor and Rose are forced to team up in order to elude Ferguson and his henchman as is Tony (Rupert Grint), a young guy who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Wild Target starts off quite well. Lynn provides an impressive amount of information about the protagonist so that once the action really begins, we’re practically in his head and have an adequate sense of the moves he’s likely to make. The same goes for Rose. Not only do we know the ins and out of her duplicitous dealings, but we know who she is when the dark sunglasses and wigs are off. To top it all off, both Victor and Rose are fascinating characters that we’re eager to learn more about.
The problem becomes the bad guys, both for Victor and Rose and for the film in general. When Victor misses a chance to do away with Rose, Ferguson sends some of his guys to get the job done. What we end up with is a barrage of men in suits with guns, awkward staging and ultimately a confusing scenario. In the end, of course, Victor makes off with Rose who is under the impression Victor is just a private detective and a downright confused Tony, but nevertheless, it’s this escape that brings us to the highlight of Wild Target, the dynamic between Victor, Rose and their third wheel, Tony.
Nighy’s performance as Victor is spot-on. He provides the character with the perfect degree of calm, sincerity and even some wackiness. The same goes for Blunt who manages to make Rose undeniably likeable yet somewhat of a burden, which is the same effect she has on Victor. As for Grint, Wild Target is the first non-Harry Potter film that really shows he’s got something more to offer than waving a wand around and playing Harry’s best buddy. It’s just too bad Lynn completely misses the opportunity to put such impressive talent to use.
The initial fault lies with Coxon, who just seems to have forgotten to think through every progression of her story. She knows what she’s doing when it comes to developing a character, but when those characters have to change, they fall apart as does the coherence of the story. Further enhancing these issues is Lynn. Not only does he tend to include silly camera tricks, particularly jarring zooms, but he also ups the foolishness of the film so much that it makes most of the gags plain old unfunny.
It’s really such a shame Wild Target has two wildly opposite presentations; the story itself doesn’t work, but the actors manage to draw you in so much, it makes the misdirection and poor writing tolerable and even enjoyable to a point. When not rolling your eyes at a disjointedly shot car chase scene or excruciatingly convenient coincidences, it’s easy to get lost in Victor, Rose and Tony’s adventure and sympathize with the little family they create and that in itself makes Wild Target worth the 98 minutes.
By Perri Nemiroff