Homicide for hire as a weapon of laughter in a comedy may be an even more daunting challenge to pull off in a movie than engaging in the assassination profession itself. But British director Jonathan Lynn (Nuns On The Run, My Cousin Vinny), who’s displayed his expertise at mixing murder and silly mayhem on both continents, continues to exhibit his flair for pathological lunacy with Wild Target. Even as the story occasionally feels overwrought and recycled.
Emily Blunt is Rose in Wild Target, a daffy, alluring kleptomaniac who whimsically advances in her illicit chosen career from petty shoplifting to high end counterfeit art, specifically a Rembrandt housed in a museum. But Rose makes the grave error of pawning off the fake on ferocious London crimelord Ferguson (Rupert Everett), who’s not in the least amused.
Enter Victor Maynard (Bill Nighy), an efficient, gentlemanly killer for hire assigned by Ferguson to terminate Rose. Victor is also the henpecked descendant of an infamously esteemed dysfunctional crime family presided over by austere, nagging widowed mom Louisa (Eileen Atkins). Who happens to excel at the art of premeditated gunplay herself even though confined to a wheelchair at a nursing home, as well as expertly impaling annoying parrots with knitting needles.
A lonely aging professional gunman who’s about to take a hit of his own from midlife crisis, Victor is increasingly infatuated with overly confident artful dodger Rose. And recklessly abandons his assignment of dispatching her without fuss to the afterlife, to rescue her instead. Though the package deal includes harboring incidental flaky fugitive Tony (Rupert Grint). None of which sits well with a furious Ferguson, or Victor’s disapproving malevolent mum.
By no means everyone’s cup of tea with crumpets, Wild Target necessitates an acquired taste for British comedy. Meaning a highly stylized and inhibited snobbish irreverence, served up with a slice of outlandish sinister menace on the elegant side.
2 1/2 stars