Wild Target

Wild Target


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Whilst boy meets girl may be a familiar narrative, girl meets hitman doesn't always end so well. In this case we open with hitman meets hitman, and that very nearly ends badly too, but for a strange urge the older man experiences, looking at how badly the younger is holding his knife, that brings out his paternal instincts. It's a characteristic of the aging Victor that keeps re-emerging throughout the film, the desire to do a professional job or preserve his own life interrupted by a desire to show people how to do things properly. So he takes the younger man under his wing, offering to provide him with 'a training course' and leave him his clients when he retires. It's the beginning of the end for his carefully constructed professional values.

Into their lives comes Renée (Marie Trintignant), the 'wild target' of the title. She's an art forger who has crossed the wrong men and now they want her dead. But when another hitman reaches her first, our heroes intervene, initially inspired by professional rivalry, then by the cash Renée offers them to be her bodyguards, and gradually by something else.

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It's this something else that brings the film to life, filling it with humour and raising it above run of the mill gangster thrillers. At times it borders on a Blier-style farce, especially during the time the trio spend together in Victor's country house, a complex web of attractions and resentments developing between them - and the charming thing is that, since this isn't Hollywood, one never does know quite where it's going to lead. There is no simple formula dictating that the heroine fall in love with one of the men and the other be cast aside. What does happen feels, in its odd way, far closer to real life, and this provides grounding for the more ludicrous elements of the plot, as the gangsters close in and things start to go wrong. Just to complicate things further, there's Victor's elderly mother (Patachou), stubbornly proud of her son's career, and a parrot that sometimes repeats things better left unsaid.

Wild Target doesn't romanticise its heroes' careers or try to justify what they do, but it does present them as human beings who are remarkably easy to like. Jean Rochefort is perfect in the central role, stuffy and remote yet emotionally vulnerable, deliciously deadpan in his delivery. Trintignant creates a fiery character whose physical vulnerability still allows for moments of real tension, and Guillaume Depardieu, as the trainee assassin, brings a touch of genuine innocence to a young man who might owe something to the work of Joe Orton. The film is occasionally clumsy and certainly requires some suspension of disbelief, but it's engaging, funny, and appealingly distinctive - rather than just running through the thriller or comedy clichés, it has something of its own to say.

Reviewed on: 18 Jun 2010
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Two hitmen inadvertently end up protecting the woman they were hired to kill.
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Director: Pierre Salvadori

Writer: Pierre Salvadori

Starring: Jean Rochefort, Marie Trintignant, Guillaume Depardieu

Year: 1993

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France


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