DVD Review: Wild Target (1993)

Directed By Pierre Salvadori
Starring Jean Rochefort, Marie Trintignant and Guillaume Depardieu


Born into a family of assassins, Victor Meynard (Rochefort) adopted the mantle of professional killer with skillful aplomb, quickly becoming the most sought after murderer-for-hire. At the age of 55, he’s anally retentive, socially awkward and his life is bereft of all companionship but his beloved plant and an unhinged mother with a habit of killing the help. When a young messenger named Antoine (Depardieu) stumbles across Victor in the middle of a hit, the aging assassin suffers a moment of weakness and, rather than kill the boy, decides to take him on as an apprentice. Soon tasked with the job of killing beautiful young thief Renée (Trintignant) who has grifted a gangster out of 900,000 francs for a fake painting, Antoine again finds himself unable to follow through. Enamoured by the alluring kleptomaniac, he chooses to spare her life, and the trio of unlikely cohorts are soon on the run from bloodthirsty gangsters and ruthless replacement assassins.

Released on DVD for the first time to coincide with the upcoming Brit remake starring Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt and Rupert Grint, the original Wild Target (or Cible Émouvante) may not have the recognisable star power of the re-do, but Nighy and co. have their work cut out for them trying to top Pierre Salvadori’s fantastically funny caper. The story itself undoubtedly suffers from being rather uninspired – the ‘hitman turning a new leaf after falling for his target’ plot wasn’t particularly original even in 1993 – but while the core plot is somewhat hampered by predictability, the jokes along the way never are.

Like a deliciously hilarious layer cake of sublime dark comedy, Salvadori crams the film with jokes that work on every level, from the sly and droll dialogue to the abundance of fantastic sight gags. Renée stealing everything not nailed down is a recurring joke that should get old, but never does, while Rochefort’s stone-faced expression and Victor’s nonchalantly murderous mother (as well as the unfortunate fate of a parrot) never fail to raise a laugh. Laced with subtle set-ups to later punchlines (like a stack of literally divided money), darkly comic violence and more overt farcical humour, the jokes fly often, land with amazing precision and are all the more sharp thanks to the fantastic cast.
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Jean Rochefort is wonderful as the uptight, borderline-OCD hitman, and his note-perfect deadpan delivery makes the gags, whether outlandishly left-field or dry and wit-laced, all the more effective. Marie Trintignant, too is wonderful; fiesty and endearing in equal measure, she manages to elevate a role that could well have dipped into one-note love interest/unsympathetic scheming bitchmonster territory and instead makes for a fantastic and immensely likeable counter-point to Rochefort. Unfortunately Guillaume Depardieu, in one of his first screen roles, sadly lacks the presence of his two co-stars, and while he gets a few scenes in which to shine later on, for the first half of the film he lingers around without much to do. But while he’s not as engaging as Rochefort and Trintignant, the sheer quality of the script ensures his scenes are hilarious even when his performance lacks the timing and conviction of those around him.

There’s a minor lull in the third act as the film focuses on Victor and Renée’s burgeoning romance – a plot thread that never rings especially believable – but for the rest of the runtime, Wild Target is a fast-paced and incredibly funny film jam-packed with wickedly dark comedy and hilarious performances from the leads. The remake may have the immense yumminess of Emily Blunt to its credit, but it’s hard to imagine the laughs being delivered half as expertly as in Pierre Salvadori’s wonderful original.
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On the DVD:

Second Sight Films’ DVD release, timed to coincide with the cinema release of the remake, marks the first time the film has hit DVD. While the disc unfortunately doesn’t have any special features to speak of, it does look and sound the best it ever has on home video. The 16:9 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks fantastic, and while a little soft, the image is clear, detailed and free from blemishes and grain.

Though there’s no 5.1 track, the Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track sounds great, with dialogue and music all perfectly clear. There’s a lone removable English subtitle track that’s translated fantastically, with no awkward lost-in-translation mix-ups. Despite the lack of extras, the care and attention gone into the audio and video transfer make the DVD the best way to experience a great comedy that’s been absent from home video for far too long.

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Wild Target is available to buy on DVD in the UK on 21 June 2010.

Click here to order the DVD from Play.com, where it’s currently only £11.99.