Victor Maynard (Bill Nighy) is a middle-aged, solitary assassin whose routine is interrupted when he spares the life of a female thief, Rose (Emily Blunt) and unexpectedly acquires a young apprentice Tony (Rupert Grint) while attempting to thwart the murderous attentions of his unhappy client.
Review by Louise Keller:
The opening scenes of this remake of the ultra black comedy thriller Wild Target in which we meet Bill Nighy's Francophile assassin, have the promise of a juicy mark. Nighy's 'ultimate killing machine' Victor Maynard practices his French conjugation before and after the hit. He has a penchant for wines from Burgundy, too. And his wheelchair bound mother played by an enthusiastic Eileen Atkins, eager for her son to follow the family tradition of assassins and who fastidiously collects clippings of his crimes, is a hoot. So what went wrong?
Unlike the original 1993 French film with the deliciously black tone, in which Jean Rochefort plays the Nighy role, this updated British remake flaunts an almost farcical tone, exemplified in scenes like the one when the assassin, his assistant and the hit rush out of a posh hotel, fling themselves in a hot, red mini pursued by a would-be assassin clutching half a bloody ear. The main problem lies in the script's failure to inject any credibility in the relationships between Victor, Emily Blunt's con artist Rose and Rupert Grint's hapless bystander Tony whose ménage a trios is just plain awful. Blunt is as pretty as a picture in the role, which in itself is apt, as it is fraudulent paintings that are her passion. Wearing a string of frivolous outfits, no sooner than she crosses paths with Victor in an underground carpark, does her confident persona change. Suddenly, she cowers from life, relying on Victor 'to protect' her; she tells him he is like a mighty ancient oak. Blunt looks as though she is having a great time, while Grint (as Tony) as he supposedly becomes Victor's assistant, looks totally out of place. Nighy is eminently watchable.
Things go from bad to worse when Victor, Rose and Tony settle in Victor's country estate home, when things are played for laughs. How could gun-totting Mother appear upstairs in her wheelchair in the middle of the night, you might well ask? There are other equally absurd questions that might cross your mind, in scenes like Victor's surprise birthday party in which they play pass the orange, do the limbo and drink champagne. Rupert Everett is given short shrift in his role as art collector Ferguson. One more thing: the romance between Victor and Rose is totally unbelievable. As are all the characters and their relationship with each other.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Emily Blunt steals the show in this dark comedy about a cool hitman's crisis of conscience, played by the quirky English actor Bill Nighy, who is totally unsuitable for the role. Blunt plays the beautiful Rose, a thorny character in reality who steals things for a living - and for fun. She is superbly costumed in funky elegance throughout, and her performance is spot on in what was originally a black, deadpan French comedy thriller.
It's now been flipped into a creakier version, a deadpan farce, without the charm, the tone or the flair. Where Jean Rochefort was utterly credible as the son and grandson of professional hitmen, Nighy is too wispy to carry it off. Rupert Grint is fine as his accidental intern and Rupert Everett is suave as the cold blooded art collector who sets off the contract to kill Rose after she duds him with a Rembrandt.
It's in the execution details that Jonathan Lynn's film falters. In a film of such delicate nuances between silly and richly comic, every single detail has a role. To my dismay, the material is badly mishandled, with too little tension for it to grab us and too fractured comedy to make us laugh. Languishing in cinematic no-man's land, the 2010 edition of Wild Target is wildly off target.
If you have never seen the original, perhaps your response would be different; perhaps you'd buy Nighy and his mad as a cut snake mother (Eileen Atkins), an invalid who still cherishes the family tradition of assassination. But it's not likely. Pierre Salvadori, who wrote and directed the 1993 original and more recently the memorable and darkly comic Priceless (2006), is credited with also working on this English screenplay; but he had no hand in the direction.
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WILD TARGET (M)
CAST: Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, Rupert Grint, Rupert Everett, Eileen Atkins, Martin Freeman, Gregor Fisher, Graham Seed, Stephanie Lammond
PRODUCER: Martin Pope, Michael Rose
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Lynn
SCRIPT: Lucinda Coxon (1993 film by Pierre Salvadori)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Johnson
EDITOR: Michael Parker
MUSIC: Michael Price
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Caroline Graville-Morris
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 11, 2010