The sub-genre of hitman comedy is a strange beast. The humour naturally gravitates to the blacker end of the spectrum, thanks to the high mortality rate, and black comedy is possibly the most difficult of genres. When you get it right (Grosse Point Blank, In Bruges) it’s glorious, but more often than not, films with such ambitions misfire (think The Whole Nine Yards).
Wild Target tells the story of Victor Maynard (Bill Nighy), a career contract killer who has followed in the footsteps of his father, much to his mother’s joy. Unfortunately, she is not so impressed at his lack of wife and family, so it seems no matter how many people he kills, he still can’t impress mother dearest. His latest target is conwoman Rose (Emily Blunt), however this contract proves to be a little more complicated than he at first expects.
Wild Target is an odd-couple type movie, as Victor and Rose find themselves having to share accommodation (and transportation) for much of the film. I should really say it’s an odd-threesome movie, however, since Tony (Rupert Grint) is a young layabout who happens to get caught up in all the killing and comes along for the ride. The three characters are disparate enough that their personalities grate in a mildly amusing fashion, yet the film is never downright hilarious.
Despite the fact that Jonathan Lynn has a huge resumé of comedies from the last few decades, Wild Target feels a little… amateurish. The pacing is frustratingly staggered, there are many jokes that simply fall flat on their face, and the whole film is just… a little bit quiet. It’s almost as if it was edited with pauses for laughter in mind, the problem being that this simply creates a void when the requisite laughter isn’t forthcoming.
I’ve always had a problem with Bill Nighy. Whilst he’s clearly popular (he seems to pop up in every second film I see), he all too often fails to suspend my disbelief. Half the time it just feels like he’s acting. Here, his uptight and repressed portrayal of Victor does the job, but only just. Blunt is wonderful (as she has been since her breakout in My Summer of Love), though a HUGE part of my problem with this film was having to believe that there would be any sexual tension between the two of them whatsoever. Grint is entertaining enough also, though his character is woefully underwritten. Martin Freeman would have to be the standout in Wild Target, if only because he gets to play a character completely different from his usual lovable loser type. As rival hitman Hector Dixon, his scenes comprise the best of the lot.
Wild Target is a bit shoddy, really. The editing and camerawork is poor, whilst the soundtrack sounds like they never replaced the temp score, which is a pity, because composer Michael Price’s work on TV’s ‘Sherlock’ was top notch. The narrative is woefully unoriginal and at one point complete forgets about a major character. Overall, this is passable entertainment, but you could find better ways of spending your time.Rating: