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TARGET NUMBER ONE: 3 ½ STARS. “short on action but long on intrigue.”

“Target Number One” is a Canadian true crime story, but no, it’s not a retelling of Bill Miner’s railway robbery or the great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist of 2012. It’s a gritty look at investigative reporter Victor Malarek’s fight to uncover the truth behind a heroin bust orchestrated the Canadian Security Intelligence Service put an innocent man in jail.

A the-names-have-been-changed-to-protect-the-innocent retelling of the case of Alain Olivier, called Daniel Léger (Antoine Olivier Pilon) in the film, the movie stars Josh Hartnett as Malarek, a Globe and Mail reporter whose dogged determination reveals how the CSIS framed Léger, sending him to a Thai jail for eight years. “I’d be very careful before you print anything about this case,” a high-level cop tells Malarek.

Telling the tale on a broken timeline, director Daniel Roby skip through the details, building both sides of the story simultaneously until the two threads meld, but “Target Number One” isn’t an action movie. There is tension as Léger‘s situation worsens but the compelling part is Malarek’s search for the truth. It’s a procedural the takes its time putting the puzzle pieces in place.

Hartnett does a good impression of the driven reporter and Steven McHattie turns in another of his trademark edgy roles as Frank Cooper, a crooked RCMP officer, but it’s the work of Jim Gaffigan and Pilon that are memorable.

Gaffigan ditches his affable stand-up comic persona to create a medicine portrayal of Glen Picker, a drug dealer and police confidant.

As Léger, Pilon as an arc. From lowlife criminal, whose big score is ripping off a gas station for a full tank, to someone who can navigate survival in a squalid Thai prison, he’s simultaneously vulnerable and edgy and that makes him the film’s most memorable character.

“Target Number One” is a low-key thriller, short on action but long on intrigue.

In theatres now:


Now playing in Vancouver, Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick


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