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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Wild Target (review)

Hitman Hijinks

Didn’t get enough of Rupert Grint and Bill Nighy in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? Or just need some relief from the unrelenting grimness of Part 1? Check them out — teamed up with Emily Blunt — in the cheeky Wild Target, which also features the hugely appealing Martin Freeman and the always charming Rupert Everett. If you need a dose of goofy British-flavored comedy — offhand, self-deprecating, and coming in equal doses of light and black — don’t miss this.
Based on the 1993 French flick Cible émouvante, though so thoroughly English in spirit and humor that you’d be hard-pressed to guess that, this is the tale of Victor Maynard (Nighy: Doctor Who), a hitman of elegant demeanor, professional scruples, and excellent reputation who finds he cannot bring himself to take out the beautiful thief, Rose (Blunt: The Wolfman), he’s been hired to kill. In the uncharacteristic moments of hesitation when he should be shooting her, a couple of coincidences lead him to become both her protector and mentor to Tony (Grint: Thunderpants), a young man at odds with himself who believes Victor is a private investigator and signs up as Victor’s “apprentice.” Hijinks ensue as the three of them go into hiding from Victor’s employer (Everett: Stardust) and the hitman (Freeman: Hot Fuzz) subsequently hired to finish the job Victor was supposed to do.

Movies hardly ever make me laugh out loud, but this one did, more than once, with its unpredictable twists — the scam Rose is engaged in as the film opens if one of the wittiest, slyest crimes I’ve ever seen a film propose — and unexpected punchlines growing out of the deliciously twisted characters. This trio of vivacious actors — Night, Blunt, and Grint — always seem to pop off the screen no matter what movies they’re gallivanting through, but here, together, they have a lively synergy, playing off one another to deeply hilarious, and sometimes weirdly poignant, affect. Wild Target would be worth seeing for them alone, even if the rest of it weren’t so clever.


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MPAA: rated PG-13 for violence, some sexual content and brief strong language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
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