Wild Target is one of those British movies that seems to revel in its British-ness, that knows it’s rehashing decades-old jokes to a poor standard, that knows its script insults its stars and its audience but that it doesn’t matter because its stars are all operating at 50% anyway and its audience are asleep, that knows it’s going to get released to little fanfare in the middle of a major, international sporting event, that knows it will be seen by a few hundred people and then it can quietly disappear to reminisce about what could have been.

On the plus side, its poster is quite pretty.

I can just about understand why this remake of a seventeen-year-old French movie must’ve seemed a decent idea at the time. I mean, what’s not to love? Bill Nighy might well stick his name to a few stinkers, but we all know he’s usually the best thing in those stinkers. Rupert Grint, pretty much the only kid who could act in the early Harry Potters, has come out from under its shadow in a few successful projects so we know he’s a safe pair of hands. I seem to have been systematically avoiding Emily Blunt’s career up to now, but I’m assuming she’s also an accomplished talent because although I hated her character here, I think I was meant to. And overseeing proceedings is Jonathan Lynn who is stepping behind the camera for the first time in seven years and whose previous work includes The Whole Nine Yards, My Cousin Vinny and Sgt. Bilko. Ah.

The poster is lovely, though. I particularly like the font.

As is the norm in a farce, the premise starts fairly straight forwardly and then quickly becomes rather complex and convoluted. Here’s the lowdown:

Art thief and general scoundrel, Rose (Blunt), turns out to be pretty poor at thieving art and her victims hire a world-renowned hitman Victor Maynard (Nighy) to bump her off. Through a series of coincidences and luck, he misses his chances and then deliberately lets her go, presumably because he’s found her a bit cookie and a free-spirit or something. The clients, understandably, are a bit peeved by this and send their own boys to sort it out. Maynard, trying to make amends for his previous gaffe, corners Rose and new hitman in a multi-storey car park and in a development that I can barely muster the energy to describe, spliff and bath loving layabout, Tony (Grint), shoots the new hitman and he, Rose and Maynard end up on the run from Rupert Everett and his assortment of baddies.

Along the ninety-odd minute way there are chases in a Mini (Clockwise, Fawlty Towers), a dead parrot (Monty Python, a million Monty Python rip-offs), a set of novelty teeth (practically every episode of The Two Ronnies) and a scene between Nighy and Blunt that might well have been effective in the French original, but just seemed icky here.

Oh, and for no reason whatsoever, Emily Blunt’s character digs some holes in Bill Nighy’s lawn with a pick-axe. At this point, I realised I was massaging my own temples.

Okay, so it’s not the greatest premise ever, but surely Lynn and the assembled talent can eek half-a-dozen chuckles out of it. Well, no. I think I might have smiled once. That said, I did hear one laugh from a female member of the audience but for all I know it was generated by the memory of something amusing that had happened to her earlier that day, or was perhaps laced with irony in the knowledge that what she was watching should’ve been funny. Or maybe it was a sorry plea for help.

If nothing else, Wild Target is a case in point that a bad script has an exceptionally low ceiling; that even a talented cast and a mediocre director can only do so much to salvage the whole project; and if the best thing about a movie is its poster, it should be left to disappear from the memories of those unfortunate enough to witness the sorry mess.

Let’s never talk of it again.

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