Review: Human Target - Pilot (series premiere)
by Mike Moody, posted Jan 18th 2010 1:31AM
(S01E01) Chris Chance is The Mentalist's Patrick Jane, Lie to Me's Cal Lightman and Die Hard's John McClane rolled into one phenomenal package. It's ridiculous, but it works.
The same can be said for this show. Simply put, Human Target rocks. It's a lightning-paced, cocksure and surprisingly funny contempo version of an '80s action TV show. So rejoice, folks. The smart action-packed hour we've been waiting for has arrived.
If there's any justice in this world, Human Target will make Mark Valley a star. No -- a superstar. Three minutes into the pilot and I saw the makings of a classic witty TV hero in his performance. The veteran actor hits all the right notes and manages to make his implausibly awesome character feel like a real person.
And what a character! I had a blast watching Chance do his thing. He's cocky, but in a good way. He's also incredibly intelligent, seemingly indestructible and possibly unhinged. (Why else would he do what he does?) He's a superhero, but he can't fly, walk through walls, or shoot lazers out of his eyes. "Cool" is his superpower.
By now you're probably screaming, "Of course he's a superhero. This thing is based on a comic book!" Indeed. DC has been printing Chance's adventures since the seventies. In the comics, Chance actually "becomes" the person he's supposed to protect by altering his voice and appearance to fool the assassin, thus literally making him a human target.
Thankfully, the show alters the story and ditches the costume changes. Instead, Chance poses as someone close to his client and allows the killer to reveal himself before taking him down. I'm cool with the change. It makes the show feel more believable, or at least as believable as a show like Human Target can possibly get. ABC's 1992 version of Human Target kept the chameleon angle and also starred Rick Springfield. Needless to say, it was a complete disaster and didn't go far past the pilot stage.
I obviously had a lot of fun watching this premiere, but I did see some flaws. The terror train mystery was too predictable and the ending to the main story was a little too perfect. But the great cast, clever dialogue and sensational action easily made up for all that.
I found myself craving some ass kickin' right around the time Tricia Helfer (who was great in her guest spot) almost brought the plot to a grinding halt while explaining the train's complicated brake system. Thankfully, the show soon delivered one of the most exciting and brutal fistfights I've seen on TV in quite a while. I really didn't expect Baldy McBadguy to get eviscerated at the end. It would've been gross if it wasn't so awesome.
Speaking of gross and awesome, I loved Jackie Earle Haley as poindexter assassin Guerrero. It was refreshing to hear him use his natural flat voice after growling his way through Watchmen. We should all feel lucky that Hollywood has seen fit to return such a great and unique actor to the limelight. I'm looking forward to learning more about Guerrero's seemingly pitch black past and watching him work more jobs with the good guys.
Chi McBride as Winston was just icing on the cake here. He's perfectly exhausted as Chance's handler and perfectly gentle as his conscious. It's through Winston we learn that Chance might be slipping after blowing up the building at the start of the series. Winston also posits a much darker observation: It seems like Chance has a death wish. I guess that would make sense for a guy who puts his life on the line and doesn't mind getting paid in booze.
So count me in. I'm excited about learning more about Chance's past and watching this crew work together again. Hopefully you are too. This is a fine show, and it deserves an audience.
One more thing ... Danny Glover!