Human Target: Run

By  · Published on February 13th, 2010

For nearly a month now I’ve been following the exploits of one Christopher Chance and his private protection agency on Fox’s new series Human Target. Based on a DC comic, the show stars Mark Valley, Chi McBride, and Jackie Earle Haley. Though it’s had some missteps and still struggles to find its stride, I truly enjoy this show and hope it continues to improve upon itself. Last week’s episode was a definite step in the right direction and I am anxious to see if episode five, “Run,” continues that trend.

The Target

A district attorney who has just been contacted by one of the biggest crime bosses in San Francisco’s history. Apparently the crime boss, a Mr. Whitey Doyle, wants to turn states evidence against his former crew. The problem is that there are number of judges, lawyers, and especially police on Whitey’s payroll and they don’t take too kindly to being unmasked. They decide they’ll use the district attorney to find Whitey before he can testify. But when Chance gets wise to their scheme, they decide killing her and burying the evidence is the better course of action. Chance must get her safely to the next meeting with Whitey and obtain the evidence that will mark a crushing blow for organized crime.

Once again an encouraging episode that reaffirms my faith in the series. There is a lot going on in this episode; some pleasantly conventional, some interestingly rare. The crooked cop angle is probably my favorite obstacle that Chance has encountered so far. I like it because it plays on the “to protect and to serve” police motto and creates the perfect necessity for someone like Chance. The mafia element is always something I appreciate even when it harbors plot twists that are a bit far-fetched. There is also an interesting theme about the bond of family that transcends the fictive kin network of organized crime and speaks directly to more traditional, familial ties. But enough about that, let’s talk about the car chases and gunfights.

The action in Human Target is obviously its most marketable trait. In past episodes the quality of the action scenes has been wildly inconsistent; varying from brutal and exciting to ridiculous and obnoxious. Over the last two weeks, they seem to have been striking the correct balance between thrilling and cheesy. Being that they appear to be using the action/adventure series of the 1980’s as a model, I don’t expect them, nor would I want them, to completely abstain from the occasional mindlessness. Hell, I was apparently the only fan of the upside-down plane gag. But when you add an abundance of bad CG to the equation, it is easy to see why people are irked by some of Chris Chance’s shenanigans.

In “Run,” the action is pretty straight-forward and actually quite impressive. The most exciting sequence would have to be the fight scene in the front seat of a speeding car. Chance figures out that his chauffeurs are not’ who they appear to be and acts with lightning speed to thwart their nefarious intentions. He beats the living crap out of them is what he does. The scene is very well shot and again features close-quarters combat which is a favorite of mine. I especially love the ingenuity Chance employs when he strangles one assailant with the seat belt. It was a nice deviation from the overly computer generated sequences that have plagued the show from episode one. The shootout in the courthouse was also very dark and gritty which is not always the modus operandi of Human Target.

If you’ve been following my coverage of this show then you know that my favorite part of the whole series is the characters played by McBride and Haley. These two constitute the intelligence-gathering and contact-farming side of the operation and these two actors have fantastic chemistry. In this episode I was glad to see McBride get a little bit more emotional content to work with because it added an interesting new layer of depth to the character. His relationship with the internal affairs detective effectively shined a light onto his past which worked very well. The Jackie Earle Haley character has had a reputation based on threat and innuendo that still succeeds in making him seem menacing, but that menace is the product of Haley’s performance. In “Run,” Haley’s ruthlessness becomes more demonstrative and we see that his bark is even more brutal than his bite. I won’t spoil it, but sufficed to say he makes his presence felt.

So yes, another great episode; maybe my favorite so far. The ending provides a sweet little dark punch that demonstrates that Human Target can be vicious as well as over-the-top. Thankfully, that ridiculous ADD post-commercial recap gimmick is gone and no new, similarly-annoying gimmicks were introduced. I know very little about the nature of television production and I will never profess otherwise, but I wonder if someone watching the episodes as they are filmed and edited is predicting the viewer complaints and altering the subsequent episodes to compensate. I would suppose that is what focus groups are for, but are those done between the filming of each episode? Someone with more knowledge on the subject please enlighten me because this is getting eerie.

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