WILD TARGET. Starring Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, Rupert Grint and Rupert Everett. Directed by Jonathan Lynn. Rated M M (Violence and infrequent coarse language). 98 minutes.
There is an increasing number of droll films about these days. These are smiling rather than laughing films which leave the raucous shenanigans of Hangover-like comedy behind and opt for some wit, some satire, some black comedy with touches of the absurd which is just that bit realistic so that we believe in the characters and what they are up to despite our knowing that it is all far-fetched. (To check on Wild Target’s veracity and realism, you would need a review from a full-time hitman, preferably British, who has eluded arrest and lives an elegant ‘good life’ in private, preferably on a country estate.)
Bill Nighy is the hitman here. Emily Blunt is his erratically and moodily wild target. Rupert Grint is an apprentice (but does not realise what for.)
If that cast is not good enough, there is quite a funny and ironic turn from Eileen Atkins as Nighy’s demanding mother (she gave him a Baretta for his 7th birthday – she is that kind of devoted mother with high expectations). Martin Freeman is the most deadpanly calm of deadly assassins, with Geoff Bell as his sadistic but dumb assistant (asking for Rembrandt’s address during at art forgery case) and Rupert Everett is obviously enjoying himself as an art connoisseur who is hoodwinked about the Rembrandt but has more than enough money left over to hire the best hitman to get rid of the swindler.
There’s enough plot to keep one interested and amused.
Bill Nighy is particularly good as the nearing-55, gentlemanly, impeccably dressed and spoken, expert at disposing of people, who is about to get rid of Emily Blunt, a skittish instant kleptomaniac if ever there was one (but not against selling off a fake Rembrandt for a million dollars) but finds he cannot. He finishes up accepting a role as her security agent – and this transforms his life and his ability to defy his mother. And Rupert Grint, on holiday from Hogwarts, gives a nicely judged performance as a young man who happens to be in the wrong spot (or the right spot depending on how you judge job opportunities) when the attempt is made on the Wild Target’s life.
Obviously, it’s a farce. In fact, it is a very British re-working of a French farce, filmed by Pierre Salvadori as Cible Emourvante, with Jean Rochefort in 1993. It is so British in its manners, its buttoned up behaviour, its well-mannered and bad-mannered thugs, and its continually humorous spoof of British ways, that, even though it is really a very slight film, you enjoy it all the way through (unless you believe that justice must be seen to be done at the end, well police and legal justice anyway. It does not.)
Jonathan Lynn was one of the writers and the director of Yes, Minister. He has spent a lot of time in the US on more broadly comic movies. This is a welcome return home.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out November 11 2010.