Susan Granger’s review of “Wild Target” (Freestyle Releasing)
Bill Nighy scores in this droll British crime comedy about a hitman with an identity crisis.
Victor Maynard (Nighy) is at the top of his game. He’s the #1 assassin in the world, a cold-blooded professional who approaches each assignment with meticulous discipline. And why shouldn’t he? It’s part of the proud – if eccentric – family tradition, a fact that his domineering, invalid mother (Eileen Atkins) will never let him forget.
But Victor Maynard’s fastidious aplomb is rattled when he’s dispatched to kill Rose (Emily Blunt), an edgy, mischievous grifter who has pulled a fast-switch on a Rembrandt portrait from the National Gallery that she sold to a multimillionaire gangster/art collector named Ferguson (Rupert Everett), leaving him with a worthless forgery. Elusive Rose is so blithely charming and deceitfully dishonest that lonely, uptight Maynard is quickly becomes smitten. He becomes her protector by pretending to be a private detective.
To rectify the situation, Ferguson then hires a rival assassin, Dixon (Martin Freeman), and in their getaway, Maynard and Rose inadvertently pick up Tony (Rupert Grint), a callow, not-so-innocent passer-by in the parking garage. Pot-smoking, inept Tony is immediately intrigued by Maynard, enlisting as his wannabe apprentice as the trio seeks refuge first in a posh London hotel, where their room turns out to be down the hall from Ferguson’s, and then in Maynard’s hideaway in the countryside, where the dreary furniture is completely encased in plastic.
Screenwriter Lucinda Coxon artfully adapted and lightened up the script from Pierre Salvadori’s far-darker “Cible Emouvante” (1993), leaving it to director Jonathan Lynn (“My Cousin Vinny”) to juggle Rose’s reckless antics with Maynard’s brutality – which he does by revving up the hectic pace. Credit the droll, deadpan skill of Bill Nighy (“Pirate Radio”), Emily Blunt (“The Devil Wears Prada”) and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley in the “Harry Potter” franchise) for making the ironic zaniness and confusing sexual ambivalence work as well as it does.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Wild Target” is a saucy, scattershot, screwball 7, a frantic farce.