The funniest scene in “Target”, a film full of unintentionally funny moments, is near the beginning, when Charlie (Stephen Baldwin) walks past one of those starving artists types singing some terrible song in the park hoping for some bucks, but Charlie just walks past her and hands some cash to a veteran sitting nearby instead. To which the starving artist curses Charlie out, saying something to the effect of, “I’m not doing this for my health, you know”. Now that’s priceless comedy — not that I think it was supposed to be funny, but rather thoughtful, perhaps?
The other funny thing about “Target” is that the best actor isn’t lead Stephen Baldwin or any of the adults, but rather the young girl playing Baldwin’s daughter. And no, I’m not exaggerating. Even Baldwin, who has been in tons of movies, is very stilted, walking around like he has a couple of broken legs. It’s as if director William Webb either forgot, or didn’t care to, tell his actors how to act or even how to walk from one spot to another without looking like cadavers suffering from rigor mortis. Everyone seems incredibly self-conscious, as if they’re aware that they’re in a movie and trying not to blow it. Really, the caliber of acting in “Target” is stunningly awkward.
Our low-budget direct-to-video actioner is about Charlie Snow (Baldwin), a CIA/Delta Force sniper who, after a blown mission, plans on quitting his dangerous job. But the brother of an arms dealer Snow killed is after him for revenge. Luckily for the bad guy, Snow is a family man, with a precious daughter (Steffani Brass), a dog-eared son, and an estranged wife (Deborah Worthing). You know what that means. That’s right, a lot of scenes where the wife and kids are put in danger by bad guy Yorgo Constantine, who may or may not be wearing one wardrobe for the entire movie.
If the acting is bad, it’s not helped by Jim Makichuk’s script, which isn’t much of a script as it is a series of Dumb Action Movie Clich’s. You know how it is: the Eastern European bad guy that likes the sound of his own voice; the bad guy’s horde of faceless henchmen; the lone badass hero; the lone badass hero’s estranged and soon-to-be-endangered wife; the lone badass hero’s inability to get the authorities to help him because, as dictated by DAMC, authority figures in Dumb Action Movies are basically useless morons whose only goal is to stymie our hero’s progress.
The progenitor of the Dumb Action Movie genre is, of course, 1988’s “Die Hard”. Think about it; all the elements that show up in movies like “Target” were all popularized in John McClane’s battle with Hans Gruber. The exceptions are that in “Die Hard” you had superior acting, action scenes, direction, writing and a big budget to compensate for its ludicrous moments. Remember: the Idiotic Authority Figures (remember the cops and FBI?), the estranged and soon-to-be-endangered wife, and the Eastern European villain who likes to hear himself talk and his horde of faceless gunmen. Sound familiar?
But while “Die Hard” managed to make people forget that it was the original Dumb Action Movie, mostly because it was first and thus deserves some points for originality, “Target” and films of its ilk have no chance. “Target” is what it is, and what it is is a low-budget actioner that would never have gotten off the ground if not for the participation of Stephen Baldwin, who really has done so much better work in the past. It’s hard to believe this guy used to be in “The Usual Suspects”. And even when he fell into straight-to-video hell, Baldwin still managed to produce quality work like “X-Change”, “Dead Awake”, and other notables.
If “Target” is a major step down for Baldwin, you just know James Russo (“Open Range”) must be really hard up for money, or owes someone a really big favor. Of the entire cast, the only one that really shows any semblance of talent is young Steffani Brass and “Mad TV’s” Debra Wilson, who plays a dreadlocked (yeah, right) NSA operator who aids Snow in his quest to get his family back and kill the bad guys. Later in the film, Tammy Trull, as the starving artist, returns to further annoy Snow.
“Target” is what it is. If you like what it is, you’ll like “Target”. If not, then you won’t. And that, as they say, is as clear as I can be about this particular movie.
William Webb (director) / Jim Makichuk (screenplay)
CAST: Stephen Baldwin …. Charlie Snow
James Russo …. Donovan
Steffani Brass …. Lisa Snow
Yorgo Constantine …. Yevon
Deborah Worthing …. Maggie