This is the third film (after Greenberg and Please Give) in the run of ‘Films I watched because there was nothing else on due to the World Cup scaring the studios’. I went to see Wild Target because of some small sense of patriotism: I’d watched two US indies, so I might as well watch a small British film for balance.
Wild Target is based on a French film from 1993 that I’ve never heard of, and is directed by Jonathan Lynn, a man with an unimpressive directorial resume (Clue, Nuns On The Run, Sgt Bilko) who perhaps should have stuck to writing with Antony Jay (together they wrote Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister). It stars Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, Rupert Grint, Martin Freeman and Rupert Everett, a rather starry cast for a British film and the reason I decided to see the film because I like all the main players. However, despite being based on an existing film, it is an unthrilling, unfunny and unengaging ‘comedy’ that borders on the creepy in the ‘romance’ between Nighy and Blunt.
Nighy is a hyperefficient hitman with no personality or life but with a silly moustache. Blunt is a conwoman who rips off Everett’s dodgy businessman, who then hires Nighy to kill her. However, Nighy ends up accidentally saving Blunt, in an incident where they also pick up Grint, a slacker who shoots a man who was going to kill Blunt, and they go on the run together, with Nighy taking on Grint as an apprentice (no, I have idea why either). Everett hires Freeman, a more ruthless assassin but inferior to Nighy, to go after them. Somewhere in there, the film is supposed to provide laughs and thrills. It doesn’t.
Nighy portrays the loneliness and oddness and the control-freakery well, but he annoyed me every time he picked up a gun because he held it with his ring and little fingers kept bent behind the handle, as if it was an interesting character quirk. All I could think was how stupid he looked, and how the gun would fall out of his hand every time he shot it. Blunt is very charismatic as a woman who has no control, but the way she ‘softens’ to Nighy (they’re opposites, so they must be attracted! See? It’s destiny, innit?) when the three main characters are all stuck together in Nighy’s home made my skin crawl – Nighy is 60, and looks it, while Blunt is a beautiful woman of 27, and the mere thought of them kissing let alone having sex is enough to make the stomach churn. It might have worked in the French original, but it certainly doesn’t here. (It’s interesting to note that Helena Bonham-Carter was originally slated to play Blunt’s role but had to pull out because of scheduling problems.)
Grint tries to move away from the Ron Weasley typecasting by growing rubbish facial hair and smoking joints, but he doesn’t do himself any favours by once again playing the comic sidekick to the two main characters. Everett looks bored in a role that looks like it involved two days on set, and Freeman seems to have thought that his character should have laser-brightened teeth and smile a lot as the defining motif of his hitman, in a role that probably stretched to five days on set. The action in the film is more like something out of a small television series, as does the filming of London in exterior shots (and they really shouldn’t have tried to include a car chase scene in London, where it looks like they shot it in a London where no cars or people exist, and the protagonists are driving at 20 mph).
This is the sort of film you might watch on a Sunday afternoon on television and wonder how such well-known actors had got involved. It’s very slender, has a silly montage scene of three people (Nighy, Blunt and Grint) ‘having a party’ and dancing around that was woeful, and it instils a British sensibility on a film that presumably must have had some Gallic charm if it was considered for a remake. I hope this film wasn’t funded by the UK Film Council – it would be used to justify the stupid decision to close them down.