Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wild Target - DVD Review



DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: February 8, 2011

Emily Blunt is a star on the rise. I have been a fan of hers since My Summer of Love and then the whole world finally took notice of her when she got nomiated for her performance in another favorite of mine, The Devil Wears Prada. Now she is starting to get her own starring roles in some major films such as this months release of The Adjustment Bureau. I just hope she doesn't pick any other forgettable films like Wild Target to star in next.



Review Vital Stats:
Format: DVD
Player: Xbox 360
Picture Quality: Standard Definition
Sound Quality: Standard 5.1 Surround

Biases:
Loves: Emily Blunt, Bill Nighy
Likes: Comedy/Crime capers, farces and/or black comedies
Neutral: Rupert Grint
Hates: Something that wants to be crazy but just isn't
Understandable: That this never got a US theatrical release


I don't dislike this film, with this cast how could you? But I did find it lacking very essential key elements to make any of it ultimately worthwhile. I wasn't even aware of its existence until I did my usual IMDB check on one of my favorite actresses to see if there was anything of hers I have missed lately. When I saw this title on her list of recent projects I wondered why I hadn't heard about it before. After seeing it though I became quite aware of why this wasn't on anybodies radar. That isn't to say it is a bad film but it was just lacking that loony feeling it was shooting for. I got the suspicious feeling that it was going for the same vibe that made something like A Fish Called Wanda work so well. Kooky characters getting caught up in impossibly ridiculous situations with no one truly understanding the others motivations. Not to put too fine a point on it but despite a more than capable cast and a fun premise, Wild Target missed it's mark by a wide margin.

Victor Maynard (Bill Nighy) is England's top assassin. Raised and tutored by his over bearing mother, Victor has been bred into the life of a killer and he does his job with the cold touch of death. But there is something a little off about his behavior lately. As we see him dine alone in his gigantic mansion with all his furnishings still covered in plastic we get the sense that he doesn't find his life to be very fulfilling. His next job is to kill a small time thief, Rose (Emily Blunt), whom just pulled a rather large con off against a local thug named Ferguson (Rupert Everett). After he tracks her down and gets her in his crosshairs he begins to find it a little difficult to pull the trigger. Soon after stalking Rose for a couple of days he not only can't bring himself to kill her but finds that he is actually helping her ward off other killers that have been sent to dispatch her. Rose, not knowing who he really is, hires him on as a full time body guard until she can safely leave the city. The two of them, joined by a local stoner named Tony (Rupert Grint), must then find a safe haven as Victor thwarts all the attempts on her life and tries to deal with his increasing attraction to the woman he was paid to kill.

Victor gets ready to give a neck massage.

It is more than clear that the film was meant to be a romp or a farce of sorts. Something not to be taken seriously despite the seriousness of their situation. A black or dark comedy would be another way to put it as well and while the pieces are most definitely there, I didn't find most of the situations that arose to be all that intriguing or more importantly funny. I'm not a prude though, there were quite a few moments that I found to be fairly comical but I think that more or less had to do with the cast and their chemistry with one another than anything related to the script or story.

Bill Nighy is a master at the deadpan delivery and his Victor Maynard is a comically complicated fellow. Through simple facial expressions or none at all he is able to elicit some great laughs (keep an eye out for a standoff with a parrot). I loved the early moments when he was tracking down Rose with his increasing appreciation and frustration with how she keeps unknowingly eluding him. And when he does finally team up with Rose the film took on a whole new lease on life for me. While their chemistry as lovers never really caught on with me, I found their constant bickering back and forth to be entertaining as hell. Emily Blunt as Rose unfortunately isn't asked to do any more than to be a pain in the ass through most of the film with the occasional heartfelt moment thrown in. She is a very talented actress of whom this film does not showcase much of beyond her natural ability to be rather fetching while at the same time being a proper bitch.

"Give me back my Hermione dam it!"

Those two are also joined by Rupert (Ron Weasley) Grint as Tony. First of all his character is a complete mystery to me. I don't mean that in the way where he is a mysterious person but more along the lines of what exactly his character was included for besides a pointless subplot involving Victor's cravings. Grint in one of his few (only?) acting gigs outside of Hogwarts did an OK job. His character introduction and how he became part of the group felt overly forced which was punctuated by him not really contributing to anything. I suppose there was some humor with him but I think most of that came from me imagining that this was Ron on a binge after Hermione dumped him or something. Grint does do an adequate job but his actual character just wasn't needed in the end and didn't even add any real comedic moments to anything going on.

Probably my biggest issue with the film and the thing that killed much of the humor for me is when the trio finds themselves at Victor's mansion. Up until this point they were on the move and being chased down relentlessly by the bad guys but when they decided to hold up at Victor's place whatever momentum there was came to a grinding halt. I understand that after a series of events that it is only natural for things to calm down as we gain some new insight into our characters, not everything has to be funny. But I wasn't prepared for the amount of time we stay at that mansion. I am not sure if this constitutes as a spoiler but once they arrive there, other than one fateful instance, they are there for the rest of the film. We don't even get to leave when it leaps forward by a year or two, they and we are still there.

These are the same exact facial expressions I had during the second half of the film.

Which would be fine if anything of merit would happen in that mansion. The whole time we are stuck there with them it is used to mainly explore the strange sexual confusion on Victor's part. In what becomes probably the lamest and most pointless running gag in the entire film (I am still unsure if it was ever meant to be funny though) we get to watch as Victor tries to decipher between his feelings for Rose and his sexual urges towards Tony. Normally in a farce like this there would be some type of humor derived from such a complicated situation but other than Victor and Rose constantly getting on each others nerves I didn't find much of any of it to be very amusing at all. And if it wasn't meant to be amusing then why on Earth would they switch from the dark comedy elements earlier in the film to a somewhat serious tale of a sexually confused hitman. Luckily it doesn't take long for Victor and Rose to connect and then that whole subplot is thrown out the window.

But that also brings up another issue I had with it, I am sorry but regardless of their strong on screen chemistry as they argued back and forth I just never bought into them as being a couple. Rose's free spirit combined with Victor's cold approach seems like the perfect formula for opposites attract but in this case I didn't truly feel the attraction. Keeping to my A Fish Called Wanda references it reminded me a lot of the relationship between Jamie Lee Curtis and John Cleese which also dealt with a romance involving an older gentleman and a younger woman (who also happened to be a thief....hmmmmm). That worked because they both gave each other something they needed and completed each other, plus their interludes were usually downright hysterical. In Wild Target it felt like their relationship was being treated as though this were a romantic comedy and not a farce. On top of which they didn't really compliment each other, it felt more like they were using one another to fill some void as they waited for the bad guys to find them.

Scary...not really. Funny...definitely not.

Speaking of the bad guys, when making a comedy of this type there is usually a villain or antagonist chasing down our heroes that should be icing on the already absurdly outrageous cake. I hate to go back to it again and feel that it is somewhat unfair to keep comparing the two but when I think of a bad guy in what is essentially a madcap crime caper I always go back to Kevin Kline's Oscar winning performance as Otto in A Fish Called Wanda. This is not to say that EVERY film like that needs to mimic that piece of comedy genius but I often find that if you do a film along those lines (which this most certainly does) it helps to have a counter balance to the proceedings. You can either have your villain be proficient and deadly or deadly and incompetent with a film like this. I for one prefer the latter but Wild Target felt more inclined to give us the former which just didn't work for me, especially when the film comes to a grinding halt near the midway point.

Because as we watch our trio of hideaways out in their large mansion in the middle of nowhere we are being constantly switched back and forth between them and the people chasing them. I was hoping that we would see the crazy goings on as they hunted down Rose but nope. Ferguson is for the most part a very underwhelming kingpin boss. He just didn't exude any sort of threat and he never once came close to being even remotely amusing. His bumbling guards were in place to give us some fun moments but even those were never fully made good on. Then you have the professional hitman Hector Dixon (Martin Freeman) that he hires to find our trio. There was some definite potential there to have some interesting moments with Hector seemingly being upset about how Victor is considered the top assassin and not him but once again that plot device is never really put to good use. And when Hector goes about town tracking them down, each time was more a merciless kill with not even a hint of comedy or at least dark comedy.

Get used to that mansion cause you're gonna be there a while.

I really hate to be so hard on the film, it did have it's moments and was rather harmless. Both Nighy and Blunt were as charismatic as you could ever want and played well off one another. I found there to be a lot of  untapped potential in the underlying plot of an older hitman falling in love with his target whom he must protect from other hitmen. I just didn't find the way the film approached the material to be very consistent with what it was trying to sell itself as. I suppose if you are a fan of either of its two stars then you will find a pleasant and sometimes comical little film in Wild Target. It isn't an offensive film but it is also a very inconsequential one. So if you want a mildly decent little romp with two fine actors doing a fine job then go right on ahead and....

RENT IT

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What's on the disc?

Talk about your bare bones release. Just one tiny feature, no trailer, no behind the scenes. Hell there isn't even any promotional stuff to be found here.

"This was a (paycheck) really fun (paycheck) film to be in".

On Target With Emily Blunt (3:30 min) -A very brief interview with Ms. Blunt with her take on her character and some other brief comments. Not even worth it if you are a fan of Emily unfortunately.

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Final Verdict:

If you are interested in a hilarious and brilliant crime caper farce from across the pond involving hitmen, thieves, ludicrous situations and animal deaths made comical then you should see A Fish Called Wanda immediately. However, if you are interested in a cute and unassuming little farce of a film from across the pond starring two great actors then you might come away with a rather pleasant if unmemorable afternoon with Wild Target. The lack of any extra features I think speaks volumes to how all of the involved actors and filmmakers would rather just move on with their careers leaving this in their rear view mirrors.

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