"Wild Target" takes aim at various styles and genres and misses the mark every time.
Ostensibly, it's intended to be a comedy — a remake of a 1993 French farce, to be specific. But it's tonally off from the first moments and never recovers, never finds a comfortable, natural groove. Director Jonathan Lynn, whose hit-and-miss filmography includes "My Cousin Vinny," "Clue" and "Nuns on the Run," strains at screwball laughs, with zany, over-the-top musical cues. The dark humor always falls flat, the romance is completely implausible and the heartwarming, life-affirming ending is glaringly out of place.
Worst of all, "Wild Target" is never funny. Not. One. Time.
It's also a waste of a solid cast, led by Bill Nighy and Emily Blunt and featuring Eileen Atkins and Rupert Everett. Another Rupert — Grint, of the "Harry Potter" movies — is all grown up here but has no real purpose; he's just along for the would-be madcap ride.
Nighy stars as Victor Maynard, a fastidious British assassin who lives alone, carrying on the family business of killing at the urging of his demanding mother (Atkins). His latest target is Rose (Blunt), a bohemian con artist who has crossed a crime boss and art collector (Everett) by trying to sell him a fake Rembrandt. But once Victor starts following her and watching the effortless way she steals from and deceives everyone she meets, he's smitten and finds he can't do the job. And who could blame him? Soon after they meet, she squats to pee in a parking garage because she's nervous that's someone's out to get her. That's the idea of edgy humor in "Wild Target."
Instead, Victor and Rose end up on the run together with Grint's slacker character, Tony, in tow because ... well, because he crosses paths with them and accidentally shoots a guy, and Victor needs an apprentice because the script calls for one. Only Tony and Rose don't realize they're hiding out with an assassin; they think Victor is an undercover detective.
And so the bodies pile up as they scurry about London; once they head out to Victor's home in the country, they forge an awkward and constantly changing threesome. Sometimes in Lucinda Coxon's script, it's suggested that Victor might be gay and attracted to Tony. Just as quickly and jarringly, Rose falls for Victor, and eventually the two are professing their love for each other at gunpoint, in French.
That these two fine actors nonetheless have zero chemistry with each other is just part of the problem; their relationship is also a flimsy plot contrivance. After only a couple of days together, Rose not only has insights into Victor's personality flaws ("You really don't know anything about yourself, do you?"), she also cares enough to share them.
And the makeshift birthday celebration Rose and Tony throw for Victor does nothing to convince us of their group bond. Still, there they are, knocking back champagne, doing the limbo and dancing around in silly hats in a painfully awkward montage of forced happiness.
Blunt gets to wear a super-cute, retro party dress for the occasion, though. Actually, her whole wardrobe is stylish, which only calls to mind her sharp work in "The Devil Wears Prada" and makes it glaringly obvious that she, and all the actors involved, have had better opportunities to nail their targets.