Story: This crime-thriller is a dramatised retelling of the grave miscarriage of justice that Canadian citizen Alain Olivier was subjected to by the federal agents of his own nation in 1989. The then 25-year-old man was held in one of the deadliest prisons in Thailand for over eight years.
Review: In the 80s and 90s, there lived a daredevil of an investigative journalist in Canada, Victor Malarek (Josh Hartnett), who feared none and threw around cuss words during live interviews with dignitaries, often dodgy in their demeanour. That’s the picture that was initially painted by writer-director Daniel Roby in this ambitious biographical drama and, truth be told, we were hooked for a brief while. The opening sequence is a clichéd one: of two henchmen chasing the cocky journo in a car to send out a message, he doesn’t budge. In a parallel universe, small-time junkie Daniel Leger (Antoine Olivier Pilon) has been robbed off all his money by the same friend he is now shooting heroine with in a rented boat, Michael, and his ‘crazy’ friend Glen Picker (Jim Gaffigan). Picker offers up his free space to Leger to crash in exchange for odd jobs. Moolah? 80 dollars and tips. Plus the free supply of drugs and to nobody’s surprise, Leger is happy to oblige.
The drug syndicate in Thailand is making inroads into their soil and the pressure to act is overbearing for federal agent Frank Cooper (Stephen McHattie) and his subordinates. Their top informant Picker has a drug lord by the neck and all they need to do is lay a full-proof trap for him to fall into in Thailand. Stage set, points scored. A year later – desperately looking for an explosive story to cover – Malarek revisits the press release of Leger’s arrest and arranges an interview with him. But the Thai police and the Canadian embassy have black-listed Malarek and he is now on round-the-clock watch. ‘Target Number One’ (also released as ‘Most Wanted’ in the US) is torn between two timelines, two scenarios and two lives.
The trailer of this Canadian production was intriguing but the same cannot be said about its full-length version: for one, the story should have revolved around Leger (especially when you are calling it names like ‘Target Number One’ and ‘Most Wanted’, no?) and his miseries in the Thai prison and not on Malarek’s personal issues and professional misfires. Secondly, Antoine Olivier Pilon as Leger is quite the revelation and the two central characters should have gotten more screen time together. In fact, the only times you are invested in the story is when Pilon shows up – once during his interview with Malarek, and the other time when he is begging, pleading with the Thai judges to hear his side of the story in a court of law.
Josh Hartnett puts in solid effort as the self-righteous investigative journalist ‘who is trying to make the world just a bit better’ but he snaps in and out of his character every now and then. Antoine Olivier Pilon’s the best thing to have happened to ‘Target Number One’; he speaks volumes even when he is staring away or talking in hushed tones. Funny man Jim Gaffigan’s not the world’s most convincing informant/rat but there are far bigger problems than him being a miscast.
Cinematographer Ronald Plante deserves accolades for capturing the essence of that era right and all the tension pertaining to the case in question. Jorane’s music essentially puts the p in pity and p in pathos; very impactful in intense scenes.
This crime drama sets out to honour the exposé that Malarek had written back in 1989, which, in turn, led to cracking the alleged cover-up wide open. In fact, in his autobiography ‘Good Luck Frenchy’, Olivier has said that if not for Victor Malarek, he may never have returned to Canada or be able to tell his side of the story. Unfortunately, none of these sentiments shine through in its visual representation. All we get is a stubborn journalist and his relentless pursuit to seek the truth. The journey in between has been dropped, and that in itself is a criminal offence.