We are in Toronto 1989. Meet floppy haired, bearded Josh Harnett as Victor Malarek – an investigative reporter who isn’t afraid of following any story he thinks worthy and the type of man who would swerve a car out of the way of a cat – at face value a nice chap. After missing the birth of his daughter due to a lead, he becomes obsessed in exposing a heroin bust coordinated by bend coppers to frame an innocent man and ultimately leaving him to rot in a Thai prison. The man oozes confidence, knows what he wants and we quickly get a sense that he will expose this story no matter what it takes.
Daniel Roby, known for TV series Versailles takes on this inspired by real events narrative. Much like the pace of Versailles, Target Number One is dialogue heavy with lingering scenes which, in the main, keep you engaged. However, the convoluted nature of the film gives way for the storyline to bounce around with what seems like little care for its viewer.
Split into three parts, the investigation moves simultaneously alongside all such timelines flipping between each, which at times becomes confusing and, after the first hour, greatly overused. Daniel, ‘The Thailand party guy’ is our to be set-up druggy, who, despite desperately trying to get on the straight and narrow, falls back into the world of drugs after being robbed by his friend and taken under the wing of fisherman come drug dealer Glen played superbly by Jim Gaffigan. Realising this wasn’t the sweet deal he thought it was sitting around on a boat all day, Daniel gets dragged into a pretty hefty drug deal in of course – Thailand. It’s apparent that Daniel isn’t a drug dealer – just a junkie. When threatened it seems he has no choice but to peruse the heroin trade in Bangkok and get them what they want. Little did he know it would be his life on the line once he’s pulled the deal off.
The scenery consumes the screen here. The gorgeous sweeping mountains and woodland of Canada, versus the wonderfully welcomed culture celebration that Bangkok brings only makes you wish more we could safely travel to these amazing places again. Paul Greengrass-esque shakey cam ensues, not quite matching the story at hand – it’s thrilling but this is no Zodiac. Combined with the audience having to follow three timelines is sure to put off some viewers. Married with a booming soundtrack, this distracts from crucial dialogue making it frustrating to follow despite the central storyline being interesting.
Antoine Olivier Pilon as Daniel certainly holds his own here, and the brutal scenes in the Thai prison evoke powerful images of Sauvaire’s ‘A Prayer Before Dawn’. Harnett , too, gets his teeth into this diverse role (thank goodness it isn’t another rom-com). Both characters are torn between two worlds throughout and when it boils down to saving an innocent man and sabotaging his own marriage, Harnett brings vigor to his reporter here somehow managing to hold up this equilibrium despite what the universe throws at him.
Due to the draw out nature of story-telling here, the resolution simply lacks weight – we should be jumping for joy when pieces start falling into place, yet this one man is a small fish in a gigantic sea of corruption and things that get swept under the carpet. A win is always a win; albeit the re-telling of this event needed to be slicker and tighter to create long-lasting impact.