“Wild Target” comes from that glorious tradition of half-baked English language remakes of successful French films; “L’Appartement” became the odious “Wicker Park,” “Dinner for Schmucks” was the messy afterbirth of “Le dîner de cons,” and now this abortion of a feature film. Often reshot scene for scene, these films are based on the presumption that reading subtitles veers a mite too close to reading an actual book which, mon Dieu, one cannot do. So it’s appropriate that “Wild Target” is a film about art forgery and theft. But while the paintings it depicts are near-perfect Rembrandts this remake seems to have misplaced the paint-pots labeled “wit,” “tension” and “plot.”
Admittedly, the opening credits of “Wild Target” nod at its shrewd French predecessor “Cible émouvante” in the most passive, dismissive manner imaginable, with some excruciating accordion music a luminous plastic Sacré-Cœur might play when you squeeze the basilica. Also, Bill Nighy’s character spends much of the film practicing French, presumably so the audience can learn something to distract them from the painful waste of their time the film in fact is. Any further trace of “Cible émouvante” is smeared over in “Wild Target” by as many Britishisms as it’s possible to fit in a film frame. It’s set in England and won’t let you forget it. Composed of series of unlikely incidents, the film follows Nighy and Emily Blunt, on the run in a red Mini Cooper, as they dash through Captain Obvious’ guide to British culture. Mothers are prim, dinners are roasted, every uptight man in a suit is a closet homosexual and Rupert Everett is never out of spitting distance.
Nighy plays a charmingly eccentric hitman and Blunt is a charmingly eccentric art thief and while blood is shed and lives are lost, all the plot is concerned with is: just when will these two get along? ‘Pedant meets nympho’ could be the tagline for all the depth their characters have. They are joined (inconsequentially) by a third actor and if you have a Google alert set for ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘male nudity’ then you won’t be disappointed. Dear old Rupert Grint has taken some facial hair potion and won’t put his wand away. But to accuse this film of exploiting Ron Weasley would be to suggest it has any sort of agency or motive other than to flap listlessly before your eyes like a fish that takes ninety minutes to die.
The tone shifts between British ‘oh bloody hells’ to actual bloody hell with corpses dropping as freely as “aitches.” The script can’t decide if it’s written by Quentin Crisp or Quentin Tarantino but of course in the end settles for neither. Any wit that does find its way into it has the misplaced air of one walking into the wrong room, pausing and looking about before scramming.
The cast does what they can. Nighy secretes charm fervently but futilely like a man trying to save a sinking ship with a well-tweaked bow-tie and a well-timed curtsey. Blunt meanwhile distracts with her painful peachiness, at times you just want to pause the film to gaze upon her, launch ships, and torch ancient cities. Indeed the film’s overall prettiness is about its only redeeming feature but sadly all the swooning shots of upper middle class London have been done to death by Richard Curtis and as the setting for literal deaths they prove woefully mismatched. The best thing that could come out of your watching “Wild Target” is you’ll look longingly upon that French 101 class you dropped after the professor bore insufficient resemblance to Vincent Cassell and lilt “Oui, Je Do Regrette Lots”.