BR: Human Target, Season 1 (2010)

December 20, 2010 | By

Return to: Home Blu-ray, DVD, Film Reviews / H

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Film: Very Good / DVD Transfer: Excellent/ DVD Extras: Very Good

Label: Warner Home Video /  Released: September 21, 2010

Genre: TV / Action

Synopsis: With the aid of a handler and techincal whiz, a mercenary helps people out of desperate binds.

Special Features: Audio commentary with actor Mark Valley and executive producers on Pilot episode / Deleted Scenes / 2 Making-of Featurettes

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Review:

Based on the DC comic created by Len Wein (co-creator of Wolverine) and Carmine Infantino, Human Target was adjusted by showrunner Jonathan Steinberg with nostalgic elements from eighties and early nineties action films, particularly the genre’s blend of dry, smart-ass humour and action hero escapades where the emphasis is on fun (for the characters as well as audiences) instead of any deep moral or political message – the latter aspects being central to the short-lived 1991 series Under Cover, in which a husband and wife team (Anthony John Denison and Linda Purl) become entangled in international espionage.

The premise is very simple: a former assassin, Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) is given a second chance to start a new life with an ex-cop, Winston (Chi McBride) and do good by helping people in desperate situations when no one else will listen, or the job is far too risky, crossing international borders or creating potential jurisdictional nightmares.

While not a fully episodic series, HT has an ongoing thread about slowly revealing details of Chance’s past, dropping subtle hints until the season finale provides flashbacks which explain how a former killer grew tired of his nasty lifestyle, saved a woman’s life, and raised the ire of his boss who was grooming Chance as his successor.

Chance also tends to accept jobs that involve people trapped in bad situations who deserve the kind of second chance/new life he received from Winston – the series’ dominant recurring theme.

Joining Chance on each mission is a kind of comrade in arms, Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley), who’s equally adept in defensive maneuvers both physical and cyber. With Winston as the trio’s manager, handler, and grumbling father figure, the group assists people, and generally achieve success with the odd grandiose near-death scrape (like flipping a commercial airliner upside-down in mid-air).

Valley suits the role of Chance, and while he’s a bit too stoic for the scant moments where he must emote some humanism, he’s believable as a mercenary who makes it a point to slide in and out of peoples’ lives with no attachment – the exception being FBI hottie Emma Barnes (the first Painkiller Jane, Emmanuelle Vaugier) who appears twice in the first season (and provides some of the show’s best comedic moments).

Guerrero initially comes off as a clichéd computer geek (every action-styled series has one), but he has an edge as well as a past with Chance, and Haley gives his character a dry sense of humour that somewhat balances the few words the screenwriters have allotted the character.

Winston tends to view his two employees as wayward brats, and most of the jokes tend to revolve around levels of disrespect that the father figure has to contend with, as well as the occasional on-site role he must play to help Chance when things get far too dangerous for one man.

The show’s positives include the humour, well-choreographed action sequences, and the strong chemistry between the three leads as well as the leading ladies in Season 1, including Vaugier, Moon Bloodgood (Terminator: Salvation), Grace Park (Hawaii Five-O), Leonore Varela, and Amy Acker.

Episodes usually begin with a scene close to the ending, and flash back to the beginning, and most stories manage to offer feature-film storylines that have been compacted into 42 mins. Had the show been given larger budgets and running times circa 1985 (48 mins. per episode), the writers would’ve had more room to develop scenes, as well as include transition scenes instead of using commercial breaks as smash-cuts.

A good example of a let-down has Valley and Bloodgood about to jump off a cliff into a water fall, but after the break the scene is picked up with the pair already drying off on the beach – a lost opportunity to fill the viewer’s expectation with the pair’s watery landing, struggle with the rapids, and dragging themselves to the rocky shore.

Overall the action scenes include convincing CGI and practical effects, and Valley frequently engages in combat – all underscored by Bear McCreary’s robust orchestral scores that give the characters extra weight.

Interestingly, the weakest episode deals with an assassination plot against the Princes of Wales (!), which oddly fails as an effective story because it places fictional Christopher Chance beside a semi-historical figure; stories only click when the victims and villains are wholly fictional. However, that episode does include a great fight concept – smashing display cases in a museum for a swordfight – but the episode’s 42 mins. length, as well as the imminent ad break, guarantee a clever idea is undercooked.

In addition to explaining Chance’s past (with a little help from TV action hero Lee Majors), the series’ finale sets up a confrontation with the character’s ex-employer and father figure Joubert (Armand Assante). HT also shares some elemental similarities with Leverage, in which renegade do-gooders are hounded by the past, in addition to a persistent villain determined to destroy their efforts – elements often used to set-up the season finale, as well as the conflicts in the following year.

HT is an attractive, witty series that’s been designed as compact, stylized escapism, and for the most part, it manages to succeed in recalling the amiable combo of action and humour that dominated genre in film and TV.

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© 2010 Mark R. Hasan

Related links:

CD:  Human Target (2010)

Interview: Composer Bear McCreary (2010)

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Related external links (MAIN SITE):

DVD / Film:  Leverage (2008) — Painkiller Jane (2005) — Terminator: Salvation (2009)

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External References:

IMDB Soundtrack AlbumComposer Filmography

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Buy from:

Amazon.com – Human Target: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray]

Amazon.ca – Human Target: Season 1 [Blu-ray]


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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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