Target (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Dennis Seuling
  • Review Date: Apr 04, 2024
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Target (Blu-ray Review)


Arthur Penn

Release Date(s)

1985 (March 19, 2024)


CBS Theatrical Films/Warner Bros. (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
  • Film/Program Grade: B
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: B

Target (Blu-ray)

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Target, an international thriller, reunites actor Gene Hackman with director Arthur Penn, who first teamed on Bonnie and Clyde. The plot involves how the strained relationship between a father and son figures into a frantic search to save a kidnapping victim.

Walter Lloyd (Hackman, The French Connection), manager of a Dallas lumber yard, is an affable person but a somewhat distant parent. His son, Chris (Matt Dillon, Tex) is put off by his father’s cautious, stodgy personality. Walter is bothered by his son’s recklessness and that he recently dropped out of college to work as a hotrod mechanic. Chris feels hampered by his father’s genuine concern for his welfare and regards him as an irritation. It’s hard for them to have a normal conversation, and they put up with each other rather than enjoy a loving relationship.

Walter’s wife, Donna (Gayle Hunnicutt, Dream Lover), is about to leave on a trip to Europe with friends. Her parting words to Walter and Chris are a plea that they improve their relationship while she’s gone. So they head off together for a weekend fishing trip, but nothing changes and they continue to get on each other’s nerves.

A late-night phone call delivers the alarming news that Donna has disappeared in Paris. Against Walter’s wishes, Chris insists on flying with him to France to find out what’s happened to her. Chris soon finds himself in the midst of a decades-old score to settle and learns there’s more to his father than he ever could have suspected.

At this point, director Penn turns the family drama into a tale of foreign intrigue, beginning with a shooting at the Paris airport that opens up a past Walter wanted to keep secret. Bad guys enter the scene, seemingly to murder Walter, caring little if Chris gets in the way. Recognizing the danger, Walter must reveal his long-hidden past to his disbelieving son. Their relationship evolves into one of trust as Chris becomes Walter’s partner in evading killers and searching for Donna. Individuals known to Walter appear periodically as the astounded Chris sees his father in an entirely new light.

Hackman delivers a strong performance. His genial work persona and mild-mannered dad of the first fifteen minutes gives way to a seasoned man of intrigue and action as various skills emerge. With little nuance, Hackman conveys determination, intelligence, and courage. This is a guy not to be messed with.

Dillon, known for teen movies like The Outsiders, My Bodyguard, and Little Darlings, stretches his dramatic abilities as a son whose low opinion of his father gives way to a new respect. His body language early on shows disdain for Walter by avoiding eye contact, evading conversation, and adopting a dismissive posture. Unfortunately, his performance is uneven. At times, he overacts when he should do less emoting. In some scenes, he doesn’t seem to have a grip on what’s required, as his expression changes from serious to that of a kid at the circus for the first time—all google-eyed and awestruck.

The chemistry between Hackman and Dillon is solid, establishing a cornerstone for the plot. They play well against each other, but some touches of humor, especially in the latter part of the film, might have helped the viewer accept their growing respect for one another. The transition appears too abrupt, and Chris’ transformation from sullen kid to action hero rings impossibly silly.

The action sequences in Target dominate about two-thirds of the film. They’re staged excitingly but often seem overblown and more about amping the plot than being integral to it. Hackman will always be associated with the amazing car-and-train chase in The French Connection, and director Penn seems to have capitalized on it.

Target was shot by director of photography Jean Tournier on 35 mm color film with Panaflex cameras and lenses by Panavision and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85: 1. The Blu-ray edition contains a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and is from a 4K scan of the original 35 mm original camera negative. Clarity and contrast are excellent. Detail delineation is sharp, particularly in stubble on Hackman’s face, Hunnicutt’s individual hair strands, decor in the Lloyd home, shops and cafes in Paris, and the intricacies of a booby-trapped bomb. Color palette varies from brighter hues in the Lloyd home to darker tones in Paris. In one sequence set outdoors, long shots appear to have been filmed during a light rain while close-ups in the same scene show no rain.

There are two soundtracks available, English 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. English SDH subtitles are an available option. Dialogue is clear and distinct. In Paris, both Hackman and Dillon speak French in a few brief scenes. The chase scene is filled with the sounds of engines, skidding cars, cars hitting obstacles and a car driving up a staircase. In a key scene, ambient noise of an airport is broken by gun shots. Machine gun and handgun fire, shattering glass, and a massive explosion are dominant sound effects. Michael Small’s score is at its best during chase sequences but otherwise seems too subdued, missing opportunities to give a musical boost to many scenes.

Bonus materials on the Region A Blu-ray release from Kino-Lorber include the following:

  • Audio Commentary by Bryan Reesman and Max Evry
  • Trailer (1:17)
  • Prime Cut Trailer (2:34)
  • Mississippi Burning Trailer (1:37)
  • The Package Trailer (2:15)
  • Narrow Margin Trailer (2:01)
  • Company Business Trailer (2:03)

Audio Commentary – Entertainment journalists and authors Bryan Reesman and Max Evry provide an informative look at Target, from its genesis to its box office reception. Target, described as a 70s movie made less gritty in the 80s, was Arthur Penn’s first film in four years. Ulu Grosbard was originally supposed to direct, but eventually dropped out of the project. The film was budgeted at $12.9 million with a 16-week shooting schedule. On Target was its original title. The film was produced by Richard Zanuck and David Brown, who had scored huge successes with Jaws and The Sting. Penn was attracted to the project because of the European locations and the opportunity to once again work with Gene Hackman. He had successes with The Miracle Worker, The Chase and Bonnie and Clyde. Though Penn once referred to Target as “mindless,” he was nonetheless eager to work in the action genre, convinced he could create an edgy chase picture. The film is referred to as “a vulgar entertainment” and “lackluster,” and Penn did little to improve it. His communication with Hackman was mostly non-verbal. With a nod of his head, he would get most shots in only one or two takes. Hackman enjoyed working with the French crew because they were genuinely interested in making a film. Some characters in the film are caricatures, others more substantial. Matt Dillon felt he was out of his league working with Hackman, but wanted the role because it was so different from what he had done on screen before. Dillon’s main reason for getting into acting was to find the truth in a character and to convey that truth in performance. Target was not a box office success. It played 1,085 screens on original release, took in $2.6 million in its first week, and was No. 2 at the box office (Death Wish III was No. 1). The box office take spiraled downward in subsequent weeks. If Target were made today, the commentators believe it would be shown on a streaming service, not in theaters.

Target is entertaining, even with handy coincidences, obvious red herrings, and conveniently incompetent bad guys. It’s fun watching a globe-trotting father and son out-maneuver obstacles in search of their loved one, even though things play out predictably. Target is not one of the finest spy thrillers, but it has plenty of action and it’s always fun to watch Hackman at his best.

- Dennis Seuling