HUMAN TARGET - 1.10 - "Tanerac" Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, April 02, 2010
The icy tentacles of routine wrap themselves around Human Target this week; they don't scuttle the episode, but they do make us a little too aware of the formula upon which Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) and his buddies depend. In this case, an Alaskan doctor (Moon Bloodgood) stumbles upon a vast conspiracy orchestrated by the local Evil Corporation™ to keep their toxic sludge under wraps. With various gun-toting flunkies searching for her, Chance needs to leverage himself onto the remote island where she works and extract her safely.
We've seen the pattern numerous times before: set up the scenario, establish the overall problem, then watch Chance methodically think his way out of the box while the bad guys scheme to do him in. In the meantime, give him a pretty girl to romance and let Winston (Chi McBride) and Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley) squabble with each other while providing aid from the sidelines. All of it unfolds exactly according to the blueprint; you could assemble a checklist and watch the episode tick it off like clockwork.
Needless to say, it doesn't do much for the excitement factor, nor does the occasional bit of hand-waving to cover several small plot holes. Bloodgood gives a solid performance, but fails to generate any chemistry with Valley, despite obvious efforts to turn up the heat (like the old "strip out of your wet clothes to keep warm" gag). The evil plot stems straight from Scriptwriting Clichés 101, complete with sinister Uzi-toting thugs and a sleazy CEO tooling around in his limousine back on the mainland. They used to do this every week on The A-Team, and the formula hasn't aged nearly as well as the producers like to think.
Despite that, however, Human Target has more in its corner than just a formula. While the overall framework fails to impress, the little details go a long way towards making up the difference. In the first place, the bad guys are… well, really bad. They sport shaven heads and cruel sneers, happy to gun down innocents in the service of their corporate masters while basically walking around with "please kick my ass" signs hanging around their necks. They're cardboard cut-outs, but it's still fun to watch someone like Chance take them apart.
Winston and Guerrero's shtick hasn't worn thin either. Besides Winston's growling straight-man number--which has a really priceless moment here--both men get a chance to menace various hapless suits in an eminently memorable fashion. Guerrero's thirty seconds with the company's evil cleaner is worth tuning in alone, while his various escapades with various hapless stool pigeons acts a subtle reminder that we haven't actually seen him harm more than one or two people on this show. McBride gets a similar scene of his own along those lines: distinct from Guerrero's but possessing equal amounts of clever (and unsettling) innuendo.
Director Kevin Hooks is savvy enough to stay out of the cast's way, and while the action scenes feel as routine as the plot, the banter and interplay don't. An unnecessary denouement is redeemed by Bloodgood's upbeat presence, and the episode's small story holes remain in the forgivable range. (They're really more awkward transitions than story holes anyway.) Human Target has definitely been better, but its core characters and dedication to reliable entertainment help it skate across some very dodgy material this week. If you can't be great, at least endeavor to be competent, a trait which has kept this show in the pink for most of the season. Thankfully, it has never promised anything more; even when it lets us down, we know we won't be falling too far.
Mania Grade: B-
TV Series: Human Target
Starring: Mark Valley, Chi McBride, Jackie Earle Haley, and Moon Bloodgood
Written By: Mike Ostrowski
Directed By: Kevin Hooks
Series: Human Target