Wild Target ****
You could easily be forgiven for being completely unaware of this little British comedy out in cinemas this week. The marketing and promotion for Wild Target have been so poor that the film has slipped in largely under the radar. And it’s a shame, because good British made comedies like this are something of a rarity in this time of cinemas being overloaded with blockbusters from the USA. A small scale production with hardly the most original of premises – it is, in fact, a remake of a 1993 French film named Cible Emouvant – Wild Target is nonetheless a quintessentially British film, featuring a cast that consists entirely of British actors, even though British born director Jonathan Lynn’s resume has more recently consisted of American features rather than British ones, this being his first film since 2003’s The Fighting Temptations, his film prior to that being 2000’s very enjoyable Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry starring American comedy The Whole Nine Yards. Does Wild Target follow in the tradition of great British comedies and hit the target square one or does it miss wildly?
Victor Maynard (Bill Nighy) is a middle-aged hit man with a reputation for lethal efficiency. Generally working alone, Victor lives to please his formidable mother, Louisa (Eileen Atkins), but his professional routine is interrupted when he finds himself drawn to Rose (Emily Blunt), one of his intended victims. Vivacious and uncontrollable, Rose is an expert con artist, who has just scammed Ferguson (Rupert Everett) out of a lot of money. Victor is assigned to deal with the girl, but ends up not only sparing Rose’s life but protecting her and forming a connection with someone else for the first time in his life. In the process he unexpectedly acquires a young apprentice in the form of Tony (Rupert Grint). Now Victor has two keep his two new companions alive while he attempts to thwart the murderous attentions of his rival assassins Mike (Gregor Fisher) and Dixon (Martin Freeman).
Wild Target is a comedy the likes of which only the British could make. Avoiding all the lame gags that so many recent American comedies have relied on in a vain attempt to create laughs, this film instead opts to go the route taken by more old fashioned British comedies, offering up a combination of good old British wit, quirkiness and farcical humour, the laughs coming from the dialogue and the situations rather than misjudged and ill placed gags and the humour being subtle as opposed to in your face. The laughs don’t come thick and fast non-stop, but, when they frequently do come, they score big in the laugh out loud department and anyone who appreciates their humour silly but not stupid will find this film hilarious. Interestingly, Bill Nighy plays his role completely straight faced, but this works in the favour of the film, many scenes in fact being funnier for the more serious approach he brings to the role. Contrastingly, Rupert Grint – showing us that he is more than just Ron Weasley – tends to be more outright comedic, filling in the role of comic relief, not that the film needs it, as it is hilarious anyway. Emily Blunt is superb too, bringing a certain charm to the role that makes it clear why Bill Nighy’s character would be so charmed by her. Despite the improbability of the relationship that develops between Blunt and Nighy, there is an excellent chemistry between the two, with sparks really flying from the outset, and there is also a strong chemistry between Night and Grint, in the form of a father-son style dynamic. In fact, the unorthodox and offbeat family dynamic that develops between all three of the film’s leads works excellently, and it is because of these strong connections between the characters that much of the humour has as much impact as it does. Elsewhere among the cast, the against type likes of Eileen Atkins and Martin Freeman prove very funny also, the latter being positively gleeful in his villainous role. Additionally, Rupert Everett is superbly over the top in a role that sadly gives him too little screen time. So, Wild Target is a very well made British farce that anyone with a taste for good British humour should love. And it redefines the phrase “half now, half later” in hilarious fashion.
Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)
© BRWC 2010.
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