Human Target: Lockdown

By  · Published on February 19th, 2010

Well, we’ve retired another Wednesday which can only mean one thing: time for some mindless action on Human Target. Fox’s new series charts the business model of Christopher Chance’s private protection company. Chance, an operative with a murky past, is the best money can buy. Aiding him in his work are Winston (Chi McBride) and Lilliputian enforcer Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley). Every week we are introduced to a new downtrodden sap who is in legitimate danger of being rushed off this mortal coil by a faceless, or in some cases overt, threat.

From there, the series usually utilizes a number of devices that made the action shows of the 1980’s so entertaining to compartmentalize each episode and limit the number of over-arching storylines. It’s been a bit of a bumpy road for Human Target since its pilot episode aired just about a month ago, but over the last few weeks it has started to solidify its identity while still maintaining its irreverent spirit of chaotic adventure. Let’s see if the sixth episode, “Lockdown”, walks this fine line with as much mastery as have the last two.

The Target

An engineer working for a weapons manufacturer. Formerly one of a pair of engineers working for the company, Martin, has developed a number of extremely lethal devices including a plasma cannon and a deadly microwave emitter. One of those weapons ends up in the hands of America’s enemies who use it to destroy a hospital overseas. When the Martin and his partner approach the company with this concern, the partner is murdered and Martin, who is deemed too valuable to be liquidated, is locked in a lab at corporate headquarters. He is being held hostage in the hyper-secure building with no way out and no end to his captivity in sight. He’s able to get a coded message out to his father who in turn hires Chance to rescue his son. Can Chance breach this impenetrable monolith? Will the company change its position on Martin’s worth? Will Christopher Chance legally change his name to Ethan Hunt?

I kid, but the aerial approach to the impossible (pun) to enter building did smack of a certain Scientology super-spy from a certain film trilogy. There were actually several moments throughout the episode that reminded me of Mission: Impossible; the movie as opposed to the original series. The room with the allwhite, laser-guarded floor springs to mind immediately. Overall, apart from a few minor missteps, “Lockdown” is another solid episode. It delivers the requisite entertainment value and over-the-top charm, and the added bonus of treating the building itself as another villain was cheese-tastic. My favorite gag was the escape route created with a plasma cannon; of course they would leave those lying around ready for use, right?

The action sequences were as ambitious as ever with only one brief moment of the rubbery CG they’ve been using sparingly since the abysmal “Embassy Row” episode. Much to my delight, the last three episodes have featured close-quarters fight scenes. This time it’s a brutal fight to the finish within an elevator car between Chance and the building’s dastardly head of security. The combat is not as well choreographed as it was in the speeding car fight of last week’s episode or the gondola sequence of the week prior to that, but the payoff was no less satisfying. There is also a series-crystallizing moment when Chance, suspended by his feet, came flying head-first down the elevator cable gun-blazing. Is it absurd? Absolutely! But in that one beef-headed act of heroism, Human Target leaves a stylistic footprint for any promo they wish to air from here on out.

As to performances, I was pleased as usual. Mark Valley is still the charming, lovable blunt instrument with the tongue-in- cheek action humor. Chi McBride is still the put-upon, faithful overseer and Jackie Earle Haley is still the pitch-perfect, nonchalant mercenary with the coiled potential for mayhem. The moment wherein he reveals his extreme distaste for prisons is a nice glimmer of ferocity from an otherwise reserved character. The addition of Kevin Weisman as the hapless engineer/nerd was quite apt and he played it with more subtly than I would have expected which was refreshing. TV addicts may recognize Weisman from his work on the J.J. Abrams sexy spy series Alias. Even the evil head of security was enjoyable in his ham-fisted caricature of a action villain.

The final moments of the episode offer yet another teaser regarding Chance’s past, and how he may be on the threshold of that past catching up with him. I am intrigued as to what that past may contain so clearly they are doing their job drawing me in, but I felt the development at the end of “Lockdown” lacked the same punch as those in previous chapters. The best development had to be the one toward the end of the episode “Sanctuary.” A secret meeting between Guerrero and a mysterious agent trying to obtain info on Chance concludes decisively at Guerrero’s hand. Guerrero’s final word on the matter stepped the series up a notch and I feel this finale did little to advance that tension.

But again, “Lockdown” is a solid episode from start to finish. It’s not a monumental step forward for the series, but at least the series has yet again side-stepped the problems it harbored early on.

Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.