' ' Cinema Romantico: Wild Target

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wild Target

Late in “Wild Target” our surrogate professional assassin (Bill Nighy) is explaining why his chief rival is not up to par and it is because he is needlessly barbaric. Except astute viewers will recall that much earlier in the movie as our surrogate professional assassin is tracking the inevitable love interest (Emily Blunt) whom he has been contracted to kill he follows her to a dressing room at an outdoor market, blasts a few bullets into the closed curtain, hears a body fall and turns to walk away only to see the inevitable love interest ahead of him and walking away. He returns to the chase, never mind that innocent person in the dressing room he just, you know, SHOT TO DEATH. Isn’t this……needlessly barbaric?

That, in a paragraph, is the foremost issue with Jonathan Lynn’s “Wild Target.” Or, more to the point, that is the foremost issue with Lucinda Coxon’s screenplay, it ignores the way it has chosen to it establish its characters in the first act to have them and do and say things that given the only context we have make absolutely no sense. Pity because Nighy and Blunt are two hella talented performers who can lock into these sort of roles with a tractor beam – he, a buttoned-up, closed-off baretta-wielding ninny who keeps fine china in glass cabinets and plastic over all the furniture. She, a Manic Pixie Con Artist, a kleptomaniac in the whimsical Winona Ryder vein with sauciness to burn.

The story: Rose (Blunt) employs a fake Rembrandt (and a blonde wig) to fleece Ferguson (Rupert Everett) out of a cool $900,000. Ferguson hires the enigmatic Victor Maynard (Nighy) to track her and take her out. At first, as they must, hijinxs prevent him from achieving his assignment until he is at last afforded a clear shot from a roof top and then……refrains from pulling the trigger. Why? Because she’s Emily Blunt, dammit, and she can’t be killed in the first reel, that’s why! Seriously, the screenplay offers no credible reason why he has suddenly reversed his stance unless, I guess, you count the whimsy with which she thieves someone’s orange juice. And hey, let’s face it, if I was an assassin and saw Malin Akerman thieve orange juice I’d swoon like the first time Warren Beatty’s Clyde laid eyes on Faye Dunaway’s Bonnie.

Victor’s mother (Eileen Atkins) – with whom Victor has a serious Claude Rains/Leopoldine Konstantin in Notorious vibe (if Notorious had been a screwball comedy, that is) – chastises him. Assassinations, you see, are the family business, passed down from Maynard to Maynard, and his failure to complete the contract could cook both their proverbial gooses. So Victor tries again only to instead find himself gunning down the OTHER assassin Ferguson had hired, rescuing Rose, collecting Tony (Rupert Grint), the unlucky drifter who happens to be smoking a cigarette nearby when he is thrust unwantingly into the line of duty, claiming that he is merely a private detective who happened along, and takes them back to his sterilized countryside home to hide out while Ferguson hires Victor’s chief rival, the aforementioned barbaric Hector Dixon (Martin Freeman), to find them.

It is at Victor’s home where the screenplay begins to suffer breakdowns so massive it is one of those they should present as a six week course to demonstrate what NOT to do. Despite establishing that Victor suffers from sexual confusion (he over-trims his banzai trees), the film fails to follow up inventively on this detail and instead rushes he and Rose into full-blooming love because……uh, because……because within something like 12 hours Rose just decides she loves him. There is convincing motivation for this because, in fact, there is NO motivation for this. Okay, so they’re in love. Now what? Why, we need a reversal, of course! So Rose snoops around Victor’s bedroom for reasons never made clear and for a brief moment I entertained the idea she might be conning Victor. Alas, she’s not. She’s just snooping so she can discover that he’s (gasp!) not a private detective but an assassin! And that (double gasp!) he was hired to kill her! Thus, she gets mad at him and, thus, decides she doesn’t love him anymore and, thus, runs away and, thus, the other assassin finds her and, thus……oh, you can hear the screenwriting machine creaking and crying out for badly needed oil.

Speaking of which, are we sure Lucinda Coxon isn’t the code name for the T-1000 Screenwriting Machine? Is that mean? I can’t help it. There’s this Dutch film called “Waiter” I saw at the 2006 Chicago Film Festival where the Waiter himself becomes so fed up with his life he breaks into the room where a writer is concocting his story to demand changes. I wanted Bill Nighy and Emily Blunt to break into the room holding the T-1000 Screenwriting Machine to demand changes.


Anonymous said...

That's too bad that this movie is overly violent. I've been meaning to check it out as I like the cast, but I really don't care for meaningless violence and sounds like this movie has a lot of that.

Nick Prigge said...

It's not TOO violent, though there definitely is violence. I just couldn't stand how much of a point they made to claim this guy only knocked off people who were "deserving" of it (same ol', same ol') without realizing they had him knock off a completely innocent bystander and show no regard for it. Such lazy writing.

Stephanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie said...

This is an example of a mediocre film that has two good actors, but a sloppy screenplay. Nighy and Blunt were the reason I watched it, but the writing made it almost unbearable to finish. And the "love connection" between the two main characters was so out of left field it was ridiculous.

Nick Prigge said...

Ridiculous is a good way to put it. They just felt like they were SUPPOSED to make them hook up, so they did. Formula at its worst.

BevMacMo said...

So has this one.