In Wild Target, a benign and labored little British comedy I didn’t find remotely amusing, scarecrow Bill Nighy plays Victor Maynard, a 54-year-old assassin who looks more like 74, knocking off half of London with bullets, knives and other assorted weapons with the full approval of his haughty mother (the great Eileen Atkins, wasted as a kind of Ma Barker with crumpets). Mum saves all of his newspaper clippings. (It’s a family business, and back in the day, she severed a few heads herself.) Things take a grim turn when he falls in love with his next victim–a pretty, free-spirited bohemian crook named Rose (Emily Blunt), who sells art forgeries. Seems her latest bamboozled client (Rupert Everett) seeks revenge for a fake Rembrandt and hires Victor for the hit. The first part of the film is about watching him pursue her all over the U.K. in failed attempts to bump her off. The movie loses interest once he falls in love, to the horror of his draconian mother, who runs a knitting needle through the heart of a talking parrot. While Victor stalks Rose, his angry client puts out another contract on both of them, and they have to hide out in the English countryside, where Victor is saddled with the potty-mouthed Rose and an obnoxious, pint-size killer-in-training (Rupert Grint, the orange-haired dwarf from the Harry Potter franchise). The sight of Rupert Grint naked in a bathtub smoking like Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar is this lame movie’s idea of a laugh.
Directed without a compass by the clueless Jonathan Lynn (Nuns on the Run, My Cousin Vinny), the entire cast knocks themselves unconscious trying to be funny, but none of it is rooted in any kind of logic, so they only succeed in overacting outrageously, looking stupid and embarrassed. Poor Mr. Nighy. To pass the time and illustrate the emptiness and boredom of a lonely hit man’s empty life, he makes a pass at the little runt in the bathtub, massages Rose’s feet, then prunes his miniature Japanese bonsai, punctuated by lousy pop tunes. Nothing works. Despite a few scattered chuckles, Wild Target is dead on arrival.
Running Time 98 minutes
Directed by Jonathan Lynn
Written by Lucinda Coxon and Pierre Salvadori
Starring Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, Rupert Everett, Eileen Atkins, Rupert Grint