The recent string of English-language remakes continues with Jonathan Lynn’s (My Cousin Vinny, The Whole Nine Yards) British comedy Wild Target. Taking aim at the 1993 French film Cible Emouvante, a bullseye, this is not.
When Britain’s most esteemed assassin, Victor Maynard (Bill Nighy), fails to kill his (wild) target Rose (Emily Blunt), he reluctantly agrees to protect her from the men who want her dead. Caught up in the pursuit is unsuspecting teenager Tony (Rupert Grint), eventually becoming Maynard’s wide-eyed apprentice. Forced into hiding, the unusual trio establish a quirky, yet disconcerting, quasi-family unit.
Considering such a strong British cast, and an intriguing premise, Wild Target suffers from an impotent arrow. The film strives to be one of those off-beat, eccentric British affairs, seamlessly meshing danger and wit, but with few genuinely funny moments and a tacky, juvenile ending, it misses the mark. Don’t be fooled by the appealing trailer.
The film’s shortcomings are less the fault of the actors than it is the unexciting and undercooked screenplay. The always amusing Bill Nighy as the highly-strung and awkward Maynard gives the role his best, providing the weary dialogue some welcomed energy. Emily Blunt effectively portrays her insolent character as the brat-ish and over confident, kleptomaniac Rose. Yet you can’t help but feel Blunt could have done more – she has a history of making the unlikable, likeable. Maybe she should have stolen herself a pair of Prada heels? Rupert Grint brings little new to the screen as Tony – who is really just Ron Weasley, minus the wand. His shtick feels much like another Deathly Hallows teaser, as if to remind us that a more involving cinematic experience isn’t far away.
Why Maynard would risk his life and his family’s name to save the annoying, disrespectful Rose is perplexing. The screenplay hints to recent resistance of the chosen family career, however, Rose is entirely egocentric, thoughtless, inconsiderate and generally unlikeable; a waste of Maynard’s newfound philanthropic outlook. Predictably, affection blossoms between the two, climaxing in an unsettling romantic rendezvous – who really wants to see Bill Nighy fumble about with a woman half his age? Thankfully, Lynn inserts a sigh inducing ‘fade to black’.
An odd sub-plot, questioning Maynard’s sexuality, seems largely unnecessary; if not for an awkward show-and-tell with Tony. What makes this scene most disturbing is the portrayal of Tony as a childlike figure; parentless, vulnerable and eager to please. Hogwarts would not approve.
On an equally baffling side note, if anyone understood why Rose felt the need to question her prospective lovers’ weight before making nookie, please enlighten us in the comments section below.
There is little noteworthy in the film’s look – both the sets and photography are stock-standard. Maynard’s rural family home is dull, where it could have been grandiose, and the hotel is a yawn. Lovers of Sex and the City will lap up Rose’s many costume changes – the silver ball gown with the red stockings, she dons for Maynard’s surprise birthday shindig is particularly pleasant – yet others may only be left scratching their heads as to how she managed to fit all those outfits into one suitcase.
If you prefer your thrillers with thrills and your comedies with laughs, then Wild Target is likely to misfire. With an interesting premise and a capable cast, it’s a shame the result is such a dead horse. If only the scrappy screenplay aimed a little higher.