Canadian True Crime: Our Review of ‘Target Number One’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - July 23, 2020
Canadian True Crime: Our Review of ‘Target Number One’

The universe usually doesn’t restart with a bang, but rather with a whimper…

Believe it or not, here in Canada (at least in B.C and Quebec) there are actually movies opening in the THEATRES.  Based on a true story, Target Number One is based on something that happened on our own soil and it makes for a decent (all be it overlong) true crime thriller that shows even us polite Canadian’s are capable of some fairly corrupt shit.

Inspired by real events that took place in 1989, Target Number One follows three interconnected stories: an ex heroin junkie (Antoine Olivier Pilon) who gets trapped by a criminal organization to set up a drug deal in Thailand; an undercover cop (Stephan Mchattie) who’s humiliated and decides to take a short cut to enhance the performance of his team; and an investigative reporter (Josh Hartnett) who’s forced to re-evaluate his core convictions and maverick methods after the birth of his first child.

Target Number One is a decent effort as writer/director Daniel Roby who you might know from 2011’s Funkytown but it’s overlong nature prevents it from being as snappy and as relevant as it wants to be.

There’s no doubting that Roby has a solid eye for storytelling as the film shows it and certainly feels in time with the period but as we get hit with the facts of the story from every possible angle, you can’t help but shake the feeling that it all just needed to be a little snappier from start to finish.  While you can appreciate the attention to detail that went in to trying to capture the mood of the story and the structure which kept us jumping from story to story, it never felt like it had stakes or any kind of measurable drama to it all until the very end.

It’s basically the story of a sad sack junkie of a kid in the wrong place at the wrong time and it takes just a little too long to generate any real tension.  It’s not to say that it isn’t interesting but it felt like it needed a little more character investment to make the ultimate payoff feel more earned.  It all plays a little too politely, sure it’s a Canadian movie so you can insert your own joke there but had this movie had a little more ‘theatricality’ to it, it could have been something not only entertaining but even special as it needed some sharper editing to make it feel worthy of the interesting subject matter.

While I’m certainly glad that this film was produced in Canada, it did need some star power to get made and while Josh Hartnett isn’t riding quite as high as he was as a leading man earlier in the 21st century there’s no doubt that he’s actually a viable leading man.  As our wayward reporter Victor Malarek he’s solid and plays the roguish family man who wants to save the world a little too much pretty well, it’s a part that was safely in his wheel house and he more than delivers on this one.

Antoine Olivier Pilon who you may recognize from 2014’s Mommy is the real star here as he used this which is basically his English language debut (more or less) to great results.  He’s quite good here as he plays it all pretty pitiable until he has to stand up for himself and he really gives the character room to evolve and breathe over the course of the narrative.  The rest of the ensemble is fine as the likes of Don McKellar, Stephen McHattie and even Jim Gaffigan as a sleazy informant all turn up.

At the end of the day, Target Number One won’t disappoint (if you’re in British Columbia or Quebec) and have that uncontrollable itch to get back to the cinemas that we love and miss so dearly but with some tweaks it could have been something a little more exciting that really would have drawn in some audiences.

  • Release Date: 7/17/2020
This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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