In Joe Wright‘s upcoming Hanna (Focus Features, 4.8), Saoirse Ronan plays a teenaged girl raised by her ex-CIA dad (Eric Bana) to be a killing machine. That’s not wildly different from Chloe Moretz‘s “Hit Girl” backstory in Kickass, or Anne Parillaud‘s in La Femme Nikita. And we all know the territory, of course. Knifings, garrotings, lotsa bodies, speeding vehicles, rapid cutting, people going “aarrrgghh!”

So how did Wright, who began his British directing career as the new Anthony Minghella when he made Pride and Prejudice (’05) and Atonement (’07), manage to turn himself into an upscale hack in the Martin Campbell mold? He had the strong camera eye and the extended tracking shots and the mining of adult emotion, and now look at him. Look at the Hanna trailer, I mean. He’s shoveling popcorn.

Any way you slice it’s a weird transition. Did Wright find himself in a career funk after the failure of The Soloist and felt he had to somehow break himself out?

Is there an analogy between Wright doing a semi-predictable action-genre piece (how much do you wanna bet that Cate Blanchett turns out to be Ronan’s mom?) and Sam Mendes, another cultivated Brit director with mature emotional leanings, doing the next James Bond film? It’s the marketplace, of course. If you want to work you have to serve the tastes of the public, and the public, more and more or at least for the main part, often responds to formulaic crude-slick action fare. Not an American-type thing but something like Hanna, which is apparently of a lower order.

If nothing else, the presence of Eric Bana should give anyone pause. I’m sorry but life has taught me that if Bana has a role in a film, it’s most likely a problem of one kind of another. (The only variation in this rule has been his semi-comic role in Judd Apatow‘s Funny People.)