You don't have to be an unrepentant Anglophile or a Bill Nighy-ophile to appreciate the charms of "Wild Target," a slight and slightly daft Brit variation on the hit-man-falls-for-his-prey comedy. Nighy, in a killer guise and a killer mustache, chews it up in this romp through London and environs, a professional killer whose nagging mother has him thinking, in his 50s, that he needs a wife and children if he wants the family's murder-for-hire enterprise to continue another generation.
That's right. Victor Maynard (Nighy) isn't the first in his line to be a trigger-man. But doting on his mum (Eileen Atkins) has his mum fretting that he's probably gay, and she finds that idea disappointing.
Not to worry. An entirely-too-young, entirely-too-shapely con artist (Emily Blunt) catches his eye as he's looking through the gun-sight. She has passed off a fake Rembrandt on the wrong, ill-tempered underworld-connected collector (Rupert Everett) and he's put out a contract on her. Rose may be the first contract Victor doesn't fulfill. She's just too fetching. But before Victor can reconcile that, other killers have been sent in his stead. He stops adoringly stalking her, contemplating which of "the 17 methods of strangulation" he might have to reluctantly employ, and decides to protect her.
Nighy's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" co-star Rupert Grint is an innocent bystander sucked into Victor's keep-Rose-alive scheme, a naive young man who thinks the fellow Rose describes as "a mighty oak" is just a private detective, or government agent. Or something. Grint's character, Tony, becomes Victor's apprentice in this film from the co-creator of TV's "Yes, Minister," Jonathan Lynn.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
It's a not-very-surprising tale told with wit and a touch of style. Blunt makes the most of her bad-girl character, weepy and fearful only long enough to recall that, oh yeah - she steals. It's a bubbly turn from an actress who didn't get to bubble as "The Young Victoria." Grint is game enough in another wide-eyed innocent role.
Everett makes a delicious cad and all-around villain - "You're sad. I don't like to see sad people. Go to the bathroom."
Martin Freeman dons fake teeth and puts on hilarious James Bond airs as a rival hitman.
And Nighy, a tall, lean exclamation point, blithely surveys the scene, the friends and foes, and makes even murder for hire amusing. Especially when he's faced with the unexpected - managing a getaway in Rose's tiny vintage Mini Cooper or puzzling, for an instant, what to do with an eyewitness to one of his shootings, an eyewitness who happens to be a parrot.