06 September 2011

The Films of Jonathan Lynn: Wild Target

First off, broken scanner means no compulsory fan art (I didn't post CFA on The Distinguished Gentleman, either, but that only matters if you're all into consistency and stuff like that. )

Second off, I'm gonna skip ahead and look at a recent release. 2010's Wild Target

Produced by Magic Light Pictures (and friends) distributed in the US by Freestyle Releasing and Honest Engine films, distributed on home video platforms by Fox. It's written by Lucinda Coxon, based off of the film, Cible émouvante written and directed by Pierre Salvadori. Starring the Octopus man from Pirates of the Carribbean, that Girl from the wolfman and Ron Weasley.

The Harry Potter Reference? You're really gonna go with that?

Wild Target is unusual, in that it's been released seven years after The Fighting Temptations, the longest gap between Jonathan Lynn films, (most of which have come out regularly every 2-3 years). Odd, but so unusual as to discredit Lynn as an example as a successful contemporary career filmmaker.

The movie's about Victor Maynard, an assassin who falls in love with his mark, Rose. He winds up protecting her rather than shooting her, a carwasher named Tony tags along during the chase and, in noble light-comedy tradition: "hilarity ensues".

What's striking about Wild Target is David Johnson's cinematography. Most of Lynn's films have the stock "comedy look" about them: high-key lighting, nonobtrusive camera work very much presented like a sitcom without a laugh track.


Weirdly, my main criticism of the film is the same as it was for Nuns on the Run. The antagonists, the evil businessman played by Rupert Everett and rival hitman played by Martin Freeman, aren't credible obstacles or threats . Businessman Ferguson spends so many scenes playing broad and bitchy to be taken seriously and rival assassin Dixon keeps having his on-screen competence undermined by statements about how he's "second best" to Victor.

Now, plot isn't everything. And perhaps the ultimate purpose of story is to make some observation on the human condition or provide instruction for future generations. But a big part of making a living through narrative is entertaining the audience (so they'll pay you money). And applicable rules of dramatic form is one of the the most reliable, and most often proven methods of doing so. So I stand by my opinion, these bad guys are too easy!

SPOLIERS BELOW (just in case you care)
Personally, I enjoyed Wild Target, for many of the reasons I enjoy most of Jonathan Lynn movies, it's funny, but it also makes you think.

The movie deals with Victor's mid-life crisis, and legacy. His mother states it outright when she says that he "is, in many ways, becoming (his) father's son". Victor takes in Tony as an apprentice, refuses to shoot a pretty girl after his mother suggests he should be getting married, installs said pretty girl in his mother's old bedroom and ends the movie with successful procreation with said pretty girl.

In a way, the change in Victor's life is brought about by sentiment. He's shown to be little more than a lonely, cold professional in Act I. He saves Rose at the beginning of act II, borrowing a fair share of trouble, and his father's old gun backfires on Dixon, saving them all(except for Dixon, obviously). It's a gun Victor had never used or attended to (much like his personal life) and only kept "for sentimental reasons".

Box Office Mojo says wild Target had a production budget of 8 Million US dollars, with to-date worldwide grosses of 3 and a half million (again, in US dollars).

With these numbers, and no further projects (announced, in production or otherwise) it's possible this could be Jonathan Lynn's last film, which isn't a bad note to end on. If Wild Target is all about legacy it would be fitting for it to be the finale of a steady 25 year career in film comedies.

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