Jonathan Lynn strikes me as an underrated director. For cineastes, the classical example of a great but underappreciated auteur, the comparison would be to directors like Andre de Toth or Joseph H. Lewis who slipped under the radar in their time but obviously delivered solid pieces of work. Having directed films like My Cousin Vinny, Trial and Error and Clue, it’s fair to say he’s been behind some solid, underappreciated (in their times) comedies. Lynn may be a workman on the side of hack, but he knows what he’s doing more so than – say – an Adam Shankman or Shawn Levy. But if I were a one-man crusade to save Jonathan Lynn’s reputation, I would not be able to lift myself up to defend Wild Target. A direct-to-video title stateside, the film has everything you could hope for and still fails to amount to much. All the more embarrassing because it stars Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, Rupert Grint, Martin Freeman and Rupert Everett. Nighy is a hitman assigned to take out art-thief Blunt, but falls in love. My review of Wild Target follows after the jump.
It should be noted this is a remake of a French film, the 1993 movie Cible émouvante (which translates to wild target in French). Nighy plays Victor Maynard, an old hitman considered the best in his business. The film starts with him doing his job, but when he runs across a parakeet, he can’t pull the trigger, and gives it to his mum. Rose (Emily Blunt) works in a museum, and has a co-worker (who restores great art) make a copy of a million dollar piece she sells to Ferguson (Rupert Everett), who figures out he’s been duped shortly after the sale.
Enter Maynard, who’s supposed to kill Rose, but during the course of following her never gets the right opportunity. He learns that Rose is both a kleptomaniac and has a healthy attitude about sex (she asks a man how much he weighs, and if it’s the right amount, she beds him). She is the prototypical manic pixie dream girl. Maynard takes too long to nail her, and other people start following her, which puts him in the position of protecting her. When he does so, Tony (Rupert Grint) accidentally enters the picture. Tony is a car washer/stoner who comes across them and gets dragged into their need to hide from the new killers. The three end up on the lam pursued by Hector Dixon (Martin Freeman), who considers himself as good if not better than Maynard, and likes the competition. Of course, love ensues for Rose and Maynard.
The problem with the love story is that the two have absolutely no chemistry together and nothing that happens in the film to suggest as much is believable. I like all of the leading actors and the goodwill that comes from that, and a relatively interesting premise should be enough. Here everyone feels like they’re in contractual obligation mode. Nighy can do the droll business man as well as anyone and though he’s good enough here, it never does anything much with his charms. Blunt seems to be playing the part they gave her, and she makes her sexual appetite and casual recklessness work as much as it can, but the film does’t have the sort of whimsy necessary to take it home. To make it believable enough to work. Grint seems inserted in the film and the only thing interesting about his performance is that he spends a lot of time smoking pot, but as an on-screen presence, it seems the Potter films will be the best of him.
Or that is to say, there’s a reason this went DTV.
20th Century Fox put this out on Blu-ray in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS- HD 5.1 surround. This was made for theatrical release (at least internationally), but though Rupert Grint may have got it in theaters in England, the film and the cast wasn’t enough to get it a theatrical release in America. As such the film looks and sounds great. But the film must have been a disappointment over there as well, because the only supplement is an interview with Emily Blunt called “On Target with Emily Blunt” (4 min.) where she sells the movie as nicely as she can.