Saturday, January 16, 2010

"ready for his close-up"

Fox's new adventure series "Human Target" is a brilliant reminder that if you make your characters appealing enough, their banter sharp enough and the action sequences lively enough, you can not only get away with all sorts of absurdities -- a fistfight in the ventilator duct on a runaway high-speed train! A jumbo jet flying upside down! An air marshal who uses handcuffs that can be picked by a hairpin! -- you can actually make those absurdities part of the fun.

"Human Target" is based on a comic book by the same name, and writer and executive producer Jonathan E. Steinberg does an admirable job preserving the smart-mouth humor and ker-pow, splat fun while creating story lines and characters grounded in the alpha-male charm that made guys like Pierce Brosnan, Bruce Willis and Robert Conrad so popular.

The human target in question is Christopher Chance, a man with a checkered past and jaw of steel. He is played by Mark Valley, who bears a passing resemblance to Conrad, and who is having a very good year. In February 2009, he married "Fringe" star Anna Torv; in early episodes of "Fringe," Valley played her character's traitorous partner/lover, John Scott, who turned into something resembling those awful clear-plastic-encased anatomy models.

As Scott, Valley was, frankly, a bit of a bore, even as the ghost/hallucination he eventually became, but then he wasn't given much to do, a fact Fox more than makes up for in "Human Target." Here, he's not only given plenty to do, he does it with the sort of twinkly-eyed one-liners that can take a hard-working actor (Valley has a credit list as long as your arm) and turn him into a big fat star.

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