Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bill Nighy, the Assassin Guy: Wild Target

Meet a proper British hired killer. Refined and fastidious (the uncharitable might even say repressed), Victor Maynard could have been played by Sir Alec Guinness sixty-some years ago. Instead, it is Bill Nighy who comfortably dons the tailored suit and sun-glasses of the increasingly frustrated assassin-protagonist in Jonathan Lynn’s Wild Target (trailer here), an old-fashioned, silly Brit-com that opens this Friday in New York.

Maynard is the best hitman working in England. He is even starting to expand to the Continent. Carrying on the family business, he learned from his father and was driven to excel by a controlling mother, with whom he lived for years. Then one fine day, he accepts an assignment to dispatch Rose, a free-spirited con-artist who pulled the old Rembrandt switcheroo with the wrong shady art collector. There is something about her though, that is just hard to kill, so he doesn’t, which is a big professional no-no.

While taking another shot at completing his contract, Maynard finds himself rescuing Rose from her replacement killers. Dubiously claiming to be a private detective, the assassin finds himself protecting Rose and Tony, a pasty-white homeless kid they picked up along the way. Mother Maynard will not be happy.

Naturally, Maynard and Rose bicker like cats and dogs, but in Tony, the single late-middle-aged professional killer sees someone who can carry on the Maynard business. Of course, the audience is waiting for Rose to finally clue into who her protector really is, while they three set up house at the Maynard country estate.

As Maynard, Bill Nighy is the perfect model of uptight urbanity. He also demonstrates a subtle, old school command of comedic language and timing. Unfortunately, there is a lot of dumb humor going on around him, which is a bit surprising considering director Lynn’s credits include the droll Yes, Minister series and the perennial favorite My Cousin Vinny.

Though she might be kind of cute, Emily Blunt’s Rose is so annoying, it is hard to understand why Maynard, the stone killer, does not just cap her and be done with it. Martin Freeman, now familiar to many as Dr. Watson in BBC’s new Sherlock, is almost unrecognizable as Maynard’s ruthless competitor Hector Dixon (perhaps because he is so effective in Sherlock, but not so much here).

Target is a film viewers will want to like because of Nighy’s winning presence. Unfortunately, it mostly spins its wheels like a middling Carry-On movie. A harmless film, Target opens tomorrow (10/29) in New York at the Regal Union Square.