Christopher Chance has been around nearly forty years as a comic book character, dating back to Action Comics in 1972, and yet hasn’t been able to find a proper vehicle. After Rick Springfield attempted to resurrect the character in the early 1990s, not even lasting a full season, military veteran turned actor Mark Valley has taken up the cause of the “Human Target” for the comic book come to life television show Human Target.
Chance (Valley) is a James Bond type with a bit of adrenaline junkie thrown in. Hired by clients, he gets involved in their lives to sniff out the person who wants them dead or injured. With his handler (Chi McBride) and computer hacker friend Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley) supporting him, each week Chance travels the globe trying to save lives as a mercenary for hire. If it sounds a bit like a direct to video action film, that’s because that’s exactly the place where Human Target comes from and embraces: the schlock action thriller. But that’s what also keeps it engaging, too.
Human Target is a throwback to the old action-based television shows that didn’t have a long term sensibility. There are no long term storylines to follows, just bits and pieces of one: Chance’s risk-taking and how it affects the mission, as well as some occasional back story to give some fleshing out to the rather one-dimensional characters. But those are used when appropriate because the show is at heart a series of short action films with the same good guys and a rotating cast of villains and locations. This isn’t a show with a lot of character development or building towards a future and oddly it works. Why? Because it feels like a comic book come to life, thus allowing for a bit more of the unbelievable.
Human Target has an inner zealousness to it that embraces this concept and runs with it. The show gets ridiculously over the top and all Mark Valley does is smile and seemingly wink at the audience, embracing the insanity and shrugging it off as it’s no big deal. He’s the reason why the show works as well as it does; he’s not taking this as if he’s trying to win an Emmy for dramatic acting nor is he playing it for camp either. It’s the same way that Jeffrey Donovan plays Michael Weston in Burn Notice, too, in that both men realize that they’re in an exaggerated show and play it off as normal. It doesn’t hurt that Valley also has a great chemistry with McBride and Haley.
Haley and McBride have had interesting careers as character actors, never hitting massive heights but finding a lot of quality roles over the years. Between the two, who have resumes substantially thicker than Valley, they provide a solid base for Valley to work from. McBride is the one in the group who realizes how ridiculous it all is and is left flabbergasted, week in and week out, when it all manages to work out. Haley seems to be having the time of his life as Guerrero; a tough guy in his own right, he gets enough quality lines and moments in each episode that he nearly steals it out from Valley plenty of times.
Human Target, though, remains a good television show that provides enough escapist entertainment to keep it interesting but not enough to elevate it beyond merely good.
Presented in a Dolby Digital surround in a widescreen presentation, Human Target has a good but not great presentation onto DVD. This isn’t a great looking show to begin with and the transfer doesn’t do it any favors, giving it slightly above the original broadcast but not by much.
There’s a Commentary Track on the show’s pilot episode.
Human Target: Confidential Target focuses on the task of bringing the character to life on the small screen.
Human Target: Full Contact Television focuses on the show’s stunt work. Valley, who served in the first Gulf War, does a large amount of his own stunts and has no hesitation in doing so (as does a number of the cast).
Human Target may not be a perfect television show, and perhaps not a very good one, but what it lacks in quality it makes up in pure unadulterated fun. And sometimes that’s not a bad thing.
Warner Home Video presents Human Target (The Complete First Season). Based off the DC Comic Book character Christopher Chance from “Human Target” and “Action Comics.” Starring Mark Valley, Chi McBride, Jackie Earle Haley. Running time: 528 minutes Not Rated. Released on DVD and Blu-ray: September 21. 2010.
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.