Monday, October 22, 2012

Back to the Futile: "Yesterday's Target" (1996)

A trio of time travelers land in the present and try to find out who they are, why they are here, and why is the host of "Reading Rainbow" after them?

Paul (Daniel Baldwin), Jessica (Stacey Haiduk), and Carter (oddly, T.K. Carter) all land with skull caps that make Harvey Korman's fake chrome dome on "The Carol Burnett Show" chillingly realistic. They eventually take manual labor jobs, and keep their special powers a secret. Paul is telekinetic, Jessica is psychic, and Carter can make fire without the use of flammable liquids.

Paul is rescued from baddies by Aaron (Richard Herd), who runs an organization that helps children born with these powers (just like that "X Men" movie). Aaron is aided by a psychic boy Roland (David Netter), who communicates telepathically. Paul rescues Jessica, and hints at a past future that neither one especially remembers. They also rescue Carter, and go on the run.

LeVar Burton is Winstrom, who is very psychic. He also has some mean henchmen (Tom Poster and the late Trevor Goddard), and a mysterious boss Holden (Malcolm McDowell). They chase our heroic trio, and the heroic trio runs and hides, using their powers when needed.

Paul pulls a metal cone chip out of his leg (don't ask, I have no idea why it is there), and discovers the true reason the trio was sent twenty-five years back in time. The violent finale lets loose all the characters' secrets, and sets up a possible TV series that never came to fruition.

"Yesterday's Target" is yesterday's news. The film is too small to live up to its hopeful intentions. For a huge underground organization, Aaron seems to be running a very small psychiatric hospital with a handful of patients. The action scenes lumber along on their average special effects and small budget. The film tries to be a road movie, but it never gets far down that road. A switch to time travel thriller never works, as the climactic mission that the three are sent on is really not all that exciting.

The semi-name cast is pretty good. Baldwin is an old hand at these B action movies, but Burton has been such a goody goody staple on children's television, he can gather no menace to play the part of Winstrom, despite the despicable murders and what not. McDowell turns in his usual psycho performance, proving he will appear in anything for a buck.

While Samson's direction is adequate, I got the feeling he was confined by his cable TV movie budget. A big screen action blowout run by Cronenberg or John Carpenter probably would have had the desired effect. There may have been more to Bourla's script, the film is a choppy eighty minutes long.

"Yesterday's Target" seems half done, and never grabs the viewer like it should. It combines "X-Men," "The X Files," and "The Terminator," but seems satisfied to end on time and nothing more. (* *) out of five stars.