Assassins have often been portrayed as slick killers, dapper and confident.
Striking like cobras, quickly and efficiently, and dressed in tuxedos, it’s no wonder they’re often referred to as professionals.
In Wild Target, assassination is just another metaphor for working class, and though it isn’t exactly satire, the movie mirrors other stories about the aging of men and the search for meaning amidst the mundane.
It’s also a nifty take on the spy/killer movie with good bits of comedy, sentiment, and charm.
Victor Maynard (Bill Nighy) happens to be the most notorious assassin in circles familiar with the business.
Described as average (average nose, average mustache), he’s about to turn 55, the age his father was when Victor was born.
A sort of mother’s boy, he now lives alone and leads a quiet life broken by spurts of quick and sudden violence. With an affinity for the finer things in life — he’s overdressed for every occasion and spends his off-time reciting French lessons to himself — Victor comes across as polished and refined to the point where his personality and level of emotion have been bleached out.
It’s how he compartmentalizes his two lives.
When a con-artist pulls off a bait and switch, the bereaved party hires Victor to get rid of her.
But the wall separating the two sides of Victor begins to crumble, bit by bit. As he stalks Rose (Emily Blunt) around an outdoor market, he begins to notice bits of her character. As she casually and deftly steals clothing, piece by piece, to fashion herself a nice outfit for the evening, Victor can’t help but admire the girl for her ability, creativity, and ambition.
Victor decides to protect the girl, and they become fast friends, even if the friendship is based on false presumptions. She believes he’s a private detective, and he plays along knowing the truth could destroy the burgeoning relationship.
It might sound a bit serious in summary, but the movie is rife with comedic moments delivered by expert actors who know the importance of timing. The dialogue is delivered so naturally in a way that isn’t pretentious or forced — it’s almost self-effacing.
Nighy brings likability to his character, and Blunt instills a charm and innocence in the girl — her name is never mentioned — that isn’t overwrought.
The inept and pure Tony (Rupert Grint) adds another chaotic element to the movie, forcing Victor to juggle all of the new friendships which start to take a toll on the neat, orderly, and colorless life he’s become accustomed to.
Everything spirals delightfully out of control, but it’s for the better. In one scene, as the trio first arrive at their first safehouse in a hotel room, Victor puts a table on its side near a corner couch and claims his personal space.
It’s at once tragic and quaint. It’s only when Victor comes out of his comfort-zone that he learns he can live and let live.
Wild Target (2010)
Directed by: Jonathan Lynn
Screenplay by: Lucinda Coxon
Starring: Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, Rupert Grint, Rupert Everett, Eileen Atkins, Martin Freeman, Gregor Fisher, Geoff Bell, and Rory Kinnear