Sunday, May 29, 2011

Movie Log: Wild Target

The Wife and I have a running joke that there are only twenty working actors in the UK at any one time. It's not precisely true -- the real number is probably closer to thirty -- but we do seem to see a lot of small British movies, and we keep tripping over the same actors again and again. Remembering their names, though, can sometimes be more tricky.

So, as we were watching it, we were thinking of Wild Target as a movie in which the rockstar from Love, Actually was a hit man, trying to kill The Young Victoria, while the red-headed kid from Harry Potter sort-of became his apprentice, and Arthur Dent was hired by Rupert Everett (we instantly remember him; dunno why) to kill the first hit man. Oh, and Judith Starkadder was the first hit man's very supportive mother.

As I've noted before, I am precisely the audience for comedies about hit men -- as previously proved by You Kill Me, The Matador, and Grosse Pointe Blank -- so I wanted to see Wild Target as soon as I knew it existed. And it does what a comedy about hit men has to: it immediately gets the audience on the side of Victor Maynard (Bill Nighy) by immersing us in his world and seeing it through his eyes and his voice. So we want him to continue to succeed in his chosen career -- but that's a problem, since we also see young con artist Rose (Emily Blunt) finagle a complicated double-swap of a counterfeit Rembrandt to a not-quite-crimelord (Everett), and we'd prefer to see her succeed as well, or at least survive.

Unfortunately, they can't both succeed equally, since Everett's character hires Maynard to kill Rose, which he sets off to do in his usual professional manner. But her life is so chaotic and full of unexpected events that he can't quite do it, and, through the sort of unlikely series of events that movies like this are full of, Victor ends up on the run with both Rose and a young man named Tony (Rupert Grint), with another hit man named Dixon (Martin Freeman) after him and Rose. It all ends pretty much the way it should, and goes a lot of enjoyable places along the way.

Wild Target is fun and witty and entertaining, though there's something just slightly out-of-focus about it, particularly in Rose's characterization. (She takes risks reflexively, all of the time, just to do dangerous things, and there's no explanation or excuse or payoff for that -- she also asks every man she meets "how much do you weight," which equally leads nowhere.) But, for those of us who love comedies about hit men, it's a gem, and one easy to overlook.

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