A throwback to an earlier era of comedy when silliness needed no subtext and soundtracks tooted along on gusts of whimsy, Wild Target is a slight screwball thriller. Yet it's worth seeing (1) for Bill Nighy doing his drop-dead deadpan, (2) for Emily Blunt being, well, Emily Blunt, and (3) to see what Ron Weasley is up to when he's not running around with that sorcerer pal, battling Voldemort and the nasty Horcruxes.

Yes, Harry Potter's Rupert Grint, sporting a scruffy beard and a pack of cigarettes, is the third of Wild Target's threesome. Grint is Tony, a callow fellow who believes he is apprenticing to be a private detective. Alas, his mentor, Victor Maynard (Nighy), is actually a professional assassin, hired, this time, to knock off Rose (Blunt), a fetching scam artist who has seriously upset a mobbed-up art collector (Rupert Everett). But Victor can't bring himself to kill Rose - he's not sure why, exactly - and so he and she and Tony scamper around being pursued by a posse of hit men.

Directed by Jonathan Lynn, whose more successful romps include My Cousin Vinny and The Whole Nine Yards (another hit- man comedy), Wild Target is the sort of farce where nothing, essentially, is at stake, even as cars crash (including an original Mini Cooper), bullets rip, and knives get hurled with deadly velocity.

So, the film has to fly by its wits - and its witty lines - and by the charm of its stars.

This it does, just barely. Writer Lucinda Coxon delivers enough drolleries and a workable running gag or two. Nighy plays dry and (not really) sinister with ease and aplomb, while Blunt is seductive and impertinent and appears to be enjoying herself immensely (perhaps too immensely). And Grint is the straight man - which isn't that easy when you're in a bubble bath and just may have been propositioned by a guy.

A beefier and bearded Everett, and Eileen Atkins - as Victor's mother in a rest home (doing a quickie homage to Psycho) - also seem to be having a good time.EndText

Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/