Friday, December 2, 2011

Wild Target

2010, PG-13, 98 min.
IMDB fouls up the synopsis... A hitman tries to retire but a beautiful thief may change his plans.

The 73rd Virgin says... I remember no talk of retirement. This is funnier than any similar American movie of the past decade. Part Prizzi's Honor, part heist caper, part cliched madcap screwball romantic comedy, and with a few surprising bits of cold blooded murder. Other than the urge to crank up the chase music, in order to assure American audiences that something fun is about to happen, this is lovely amoral English comedy.

When Rose (Emily Blunt) double crosses a vicious stolen art collector (Rupert Everett), the legendary Victor Maynard, England's most elegant hit man, is hired to finish her off. Victor comes from a proud long line of upper class hit men. Until recently, he lived with his mother (BBC grandame Eileen Atkins) and she wonders, as he approaches his 55th birthday if he “tends” toward the homosexual.

Victor spends his private time fixing solo gourmet meals (wearing a tie and apron), sampling wine, and practicing his French. But watching the amoral and manipulative - and shall we admit, breathtaking - Blunt blow through life with a natural gift for thievery, he for the first time becomes intrigued, and in an unforgivable lapse of taste and breeding, fails to kill her, and then hires on to protect her.

Harry Potter's Rupert Grint is very funny as Tony, the bumbling soccer yob who happens to have a gift for what Victor politely calls detective work. Victor takes him on as an apprentice, not as an assistant thank you, and with the two in tow he heads off to his hidden country estate where all the furniture is wrapped in plastic and he worries that he may have over-trimmed his favorite Bonsai tree.

Bill Nighy is deathly funny with his upright, shoulders-back posture, perfectly tailored suits, elegant two-fingered grip on his pistol, and complete English stillness. If Peter O'Toole lost most of the inflection in his voice and all the flutteriness, he would approximate Nighy's comic style. He has a strange tic of slightly cocking his head always while keeping his eye on the action, and has mastered the art of ignoring unpleasant comments and the behavior of those beneath him with aplomb.

The story isn't at all original and all the characters fit nicely into the parts and behaviors the experienced movie watcher would expect - except the mother who is concerned that the family's reputation is in tatters.
But when matters come to a head and the art collector hires the odious Dixon and his farcical side-kick Fabian to find and kill the newly formed family, it sets up a final scene at the estate barn that is a masterpiece of droll English humor.

And it has, in context, the funniest punch line I've heard in a while, “Tony, come and see what happens if you don't clean your gun.”

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