Most Wanted   aka Target Number One

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

Most Wanted
dir-scr Daniel Roby
prd Andre Rouleau, Valerie d'Auteuil
with Antoine Olivier Pilon, Josh Hartnett, Stephen McHattie, Jim Gaffigan, Don McKellar, JC MacKenzie, Amanda Crew, Rose-Marie Perreault, Cory Lipman, Nadia Verrucci, Mark Camacho, Raphael Grosz-Harvey
release Can 10.Jul.20,
US 24.Jul.20, UK 2.Nov.20
20/Canada Saban 2h05

hartnett mchattie gaffigan

Watch it now...

Based on a true story, this Canadian drama has driving momentum as it builds a sprawling narrative. Writer-director Daniel Roby unfolds the tale in a hard-edged period style, tracing complex connections between people on various sides of the drug trade. While there are some action sequences, this is more of a steely procedural thriller. So even if it's weakened by an out-of-sequence structure, this extraordinary story is deeply compelling.
In 1989, good-time boy Daniel (Pilon) takes a job working one-day fishing cruises in Vancouver with junkie dealer Picker (Gaffigan. But Picker is secretly offering information about the Thai drug pipeline to narcotics investigator Frank (McHattie), setting up Daniel in the process. Meanwhile, confrontational Toronto journalist Victor (Hartnett) is pushing his newspaper editor (MacKenzie) and television producer (McKellar) to run a series on the drug trade. Then Daniel finds himself trapped in a nasty situation, and is sent to a grisly Bangkok prison. And Victor is the only one who knows he was set up.
The film is superbly shot like a documentary in real-world locations that bristle with life, accompanied by a terrific collection of 80s pop. The characters are all prickly and complex, reluctant to reveal their true motivations. And the hapless Daniel is stuck in a whirlpool of bravado, pretence and ruthless government corruption. Along the way, there are some seriously unnerving set-pieces. Although the attempts to add female characters with Crew (as Victor's not-so-patient wife) and Perreault (as Daniel's casual girlfriend) never quite click.

As always, Pilon is simple astounding in the central role as a young guy who's unable to resist the lure of drugs, unaware of the trouble he's tumbling into. It's an alert, honest performance that's powerfully involving. Daniel is a likeable mess, but certainly not the criminal mastermind everyone thinks he is. This is nicely balanced by Hartnett's tenacious journalist, Gaffigan's slippery lowlife and McHattie's gravelly, wilfully irresponsible cop. Even the smaller side roles have a strong sense of authenticity.

While the plot's urgency holds the interest, the screenplay never says much about the bigger issues involved. It's a pointed depiction of the errors of the War on Drugs, as well as both a gritty journalistic thriller and a harrowing prison drama. Watching how this plays out is both riveting and disturbing on a variety of levels. But the most horrific element here is the pushy, immoral police work. This offers a hint of wider resonance, and gives the film some haunting final echoes.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 22.Jul.20

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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall