I have somehow managed to once again put off watching Tucker and Dale vs. Evil another week. I’m not sure how I keep doing, but it’s troubling. I really want to see that movie. At any rate, I was having trouble sleeping the other night and decided to watch “just one more movie” to fall asleep. Such is the life of an insomniac. This particular film was Wild Target. It’s probably been in my instant queue for a year or so and I couldn’t tell you how it got there in the first place but here I was watching a British movie about an assassin chasing a con artist through London.
It is a bit more complex than that obviously, first of all it’s a comedy. A quirky awkward British sort of comedy. It starts out perfectly unassuming. Victor Maynard is going about his daily routine, drinking his coffee, practicing French, chucking people out windows, and taping his earnings back together. Normal every day stuff. He’s a clean, no-nonsense kind of guy that is the best at what he does. This number assassin killer man is played by Bill Nighy whom you will likely recognize from his minor roles in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Pirates of the Caribbean. More importantly he was Slartibartfast in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie and of course Simon Pegg’s father in Shaun of the Dead. I’ve never been much of a fan of Nighy. He’s always incredibly awkward on-screen and plays characters that are so socially inept it makes me uncomfortable to watch them. I watched Love Actually with my wife and his performance in that particular date movie made me sick to my stomach. But in Wild Target Nighy’s character is the perfect balance of social ineptitude and James Bond finesse. He’s capable of shooting the fleas off a dog’s back at 100 yards but couldn’t ask a girl to the Enchantment Under the Sea dance to save his life.
Of course he is quickly given the task of offing the silky smooth congirl Rose. Rose has angered the wrong shady real estate tycoon. But naturally Maynard finds Rose strangely alluring and so the main conflict emerges in a scene in which little delivery boy Ron Weasley, I mean Tony, is in the wrong place at the wrong time and finds himself under Maynard’s tutelage. While Rupert Grint seems to be stretching his acting muscles and finding his way out of the Harry Potter bubble, he still portrays a clueless but lucky sidekick with an abnormal number of bath scenes. Emily Blunt is excellent in the more physical role. She is the sleight of hand artist who moves with fixating grace and a penchant for fainting. She seems to fall right into the recent trend of famous women looking like other famous women that is re-surging as of late. In my eye she could replace either Elyse Levesque or Amanda Fuller as a brunette. Although Amanda Fuller as a blonde more closely resembles Billie Piper. Sometimes I think I over simplify the human face in an effort to find similarity. If I could program algorithms I’m sure I could make a mint in facial recognition software. When Nighy, Grint, and Blunt get together hijinks invariably ensue and we are treated to a good dose of sharp wit and awkward social interaction. This is a far cry from a Happy Madison production of that you can be sure.
The movie isn’t all slapstick and wit. We are dealing with assassins here. The secondary antagonist is none other than Arthur Dent himself, who must take up where his rival Slartibartfast has slacked off, which makes for some tension filled action. The movie also includes the, seemingly obligatory, Mini Cooper chase scene. Ever since Michael Caine drove the plucky little British car through an Italian sewer tunnel British movie makers seem obsessed with chase scenes involving the precocious little cars. Even Matt Damon had to get in on the Cooper action when he came to London and forgot that he too was a top assassin. Not that I’m complaining mind you. The zippy little cars are fun to watch and their capable of some interesting maneuvers a Bullitt Mustang could never pull off.
Above all this movie surprised me. Wild Target is the sort of movie I have not seen in quite some time. It’s humor is on par with the likes of Amelie, Bottle Rocket, and a host of other independent films that don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s refreshing in its unassuming simplicity. It doesn’t bash you over the head with gritty realism or heavy plot points. Like many a good independent film it also has a good soundtrack full of songs you’d expect to hear on college radio. Wild Target is just good fun. Sure the ending is anything but unexpected but who cares? It’s no less enjoyable as a result.