When you've made as many movies as Gene Hackman has, a whole bunch of them are bound to get lost and somewhat forgotten over the years. (And there are always some that are better left forgotten!) But the always excellent Mr. Hackman did a somewhat crafty little espionage thriller called Target back in 1985 -- and if it doesn't rank among the actor's best films (trust me, it doesn't), it still stands as an watchable curiosity for the guy's loyal fans.
Hackman plays Walter Lloyd, a mild-mannered suburban nobody with a lovely wife and a well-adjusted teenage son named Chris. But when Mrs. Lloyd goes missing while visiting Paris, Walter and Chris head overseas to see what's going on. Turns out that Mrs. Lloyd has been kidnapped by some mysterious villains ... and also that Walter used to be a spy for the CIA. Needless to say, this causes Chris quite a lot of stress.
Much of the fun found in Target comes from the chemistry between Hackman and a young Matt Dillon (as Chris), but there are also a handful of chases and explosions to keep things moving along. Fans of 80's cinema will know exactly what I mean when I call Target a cross between Frantic and Gotcha!
Directed rather well, albeit deliberately, by the great Arthur Penn (director of Bonnie & Clyde and The Miracle Worker, among others), Target is a standard "pace & chase" spy thriller, only it's got the added ammunition of Hackman and Dillon -- which is a lot more than most of these types of movies have. The European settings add a good deal of color to a narrative framework that, frankly, we could probably recite by heart at this point. Basically expect a few solid action bits, a handful of potentially hazardous allies, a few surprising twists, and the requisite explosions near the finalé.
If Target's pacing seems just a bit too loose and languid (the movie runs about 15 minutes longer than it really needs to), keep in mind that the movie is as much about the father/son angle as it is about devious kidnappings and nefarious henchmen.
Pure cable flick stuff all the way, only with the added power of Hackman! (and his sidekick Dillonlad!)
Video: It's Paramount catalog time, which means you're getting a widescreen anamorphic transfer. And while Paramount generally does an excellent job with their back catalog releases, I noticed an inordinate amount of flickers and flaws on the movie. Most of them seem to be glitches on the original print (heck, even the top corner "burns" are plain to see!), but they're annoying either way.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby 2.0, and French Mono are your listening options. Subtitles are available in English.
Extras: Zip. Not even a trailer.
Target is an entertaining dramatic thriller that succeeds almost entirely due to the two leading men. You've seen the "estranged father & son" material before, and the European spy stuff is certainly nothing new .. but here they're combined to entertaining effect. Plus it's just really difficult to not enjoy a Gene Hackman performance.