By Brad Slager | October 8, 2004

It was a short time ago that Stephen Baldwin showed promise as an actor when he surprised many in the ensemble crime drama “The Usual Suspects”. His take as the brooding and pragmatic McManus had many speculating that he could join his brother Alec as an A-list thespian. Instead Stephen elected to follow that strong role with a performance alongside Pauly Shore in “Bio-Dome”, and that seemed to reveal the true side of his personality, and much like that other sub-talented sibling, Eric Roberts, he has since dovetailed into the direct-to-rental universe.

Not so much a bad movie as it is a non-movie, “Target” presents not only implausibility but comically apathetic writing and humorously detached direction. The cover art implies a military drama with scenarios of covert ops and tension delivered through the cross hairs of a sniper’s rifle. What we get is Baldwin running from Turks in a city park in L.A. And it is not nearly as good as that sounds.

We do indeed start on the field of battle, with Baldwin decked out in fatigues working as military assassin Charlie Snow. He hits his target and then comes back to the states to rejoin with his fractured family. You know the drill here–he’s bemused at not seeing his kids, the wife is angry because he’s never around, and he wants to set things right, but then he encounters one small snag. While ambling through the park a pay phone rings and he comes to discover there are angry European sounding gentlemen on the line who want to kill him.

The threadbare plot is this: Yevon, the brother of the man he recently assassinated, has come to avenge the death. From there you get such a pedestrian plot that writer Jim Makichuk even resorts to the hackneyed convention of a character mentioning how this all sounds like a movie but that it is definitely real, a clear attempt to bypass the improbable events and clichéd dialogue. (The bad guys run around sounding like Boris Badanov, saying things like “Now dat I haff yoo-er atten-shune.” and “I giff three min-oots to call.)

The premise sets this up as a chance for Baldwin to wreak his revenge on the foreign commandos, but in truth his success is paved by the very fact the assassins do everything to not kill him. During that initial call Yevon explains that after gathering a band of mercenaries and flying across the globe to find him he will let him run away because, “In my country we give you the chance to escape.” This will ostensibly strike terror in Charlie’s heart and make him regretful. There is another call later and a sniper shoots a street lamp to show how easily he can kill him. Actually killing him was not apparently an option. Then there is a face to face encounter with another killer who, rather than shooting Charlie when he has a chance, instead strolls up and starts conversation, and offers everyone a smoke. When Chaz puts it together that the man has Turkish cigarettes he murders him before the killer can draw.

Charlie is aided in his escape by more ridiculous occurrences…make that his cunning and guile. First he steals a cell phone from a woman, and the petty theft manages to get the attention of the park rangers and half a dozen L.A. county deputies in the area. (Later, Charlie steals a motorcycle and garners no attention at all from authorities.) He uses the phone to call the local CIA field office and elicits the help of Nolan (Debra Wilson from “Mad TV”) who is a computer whiz with gadgetry at her disposal. The bad guys are about to learn the dominance of the U.S. military because apparently the CIA has numerous cameras situated throughout federal parks with thermal vision and the ability to film inside nearby buildings.

Eventually the Turks’ plan of not killing Charlie leads to his not being dead and they have to resort to kidnapping his family, with all the expected results. In the end Charlie is positioned as a hero, but when he is challenged by evil-doers who seem incapable of doing evil-type things you have to wonder, just how heroic is the man?

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