Why Isn't This A Film? - Target

What have we got here then?

Simon Kernick is a bestselling author from the UK whose 2006 novel Relentless featured on Richard & Judy's much coveted 'Summer Reads' selection, making the number one slot on the UK paperback chart. Target is one of his more recent novels, debuting in hardback in June 2009 and reaching number two in the charts.

OK fine. What’s it about?

The basic premise is a simple 'suck you in' style thriller: Rob Fallon drunkenly goes home with his best friend's ex, Jenny, one night, only for her to be abducted from her flat right in front of his eyes. After going to the police it emerges that there's no evidence of Rob being in the apartment that night, the doorman didn't see anything and her father claims she's out of the country on holiday. What happened to Jenny and can Rob convince anyone he's telling the truth?

Interesting. Is there something more?

As the plot develops, a kind of international conspiracy emerges with players in multiple areas, all aiming for different things. The book moves towards more of a police procedural, with an elite band of London police officers revealing more and more of the mystery as we proceed still following Fallon's path through the narrative.

Save me the trouble then – is it any good?

No. In fact, this is one of the worst books we've had the displeasure to come across. Whilst the initial premise is good and exciting: don't let that fool you, the book soon loses focus, switching between characters too quickly in order for you to really identify with them and building layer upon layer of cliché. The only thing Target really tells you about Kernick's writing is that he's read a few Bond novels and can come up with tense situations but has absolutely no idea how to develop 'real-life' characters or present suitable conclusions.


There isn't one. Kernick's mastery of swapping between first and third person writing is impressive but his choice of narrator for the first person sections, particularly come the last quarter of the book, is completely bonkers, asking far too much of the reader and leaving a very sour taste indeed.

What are its chances of being made as a film?

Despite the above, this is another bestseller that has probably got a fine chance of being optioned at some point. Kernick writes like he's making a film pitch and, despite the book's failings, a few key plot changes could see it make a decent action-thriller vehicle for a big name star.

But who'd star in it?

Fallon is an everyman with an edge, something that Matthew MacFadyen is good at portraying. The three police officers who feature prominently (Mike Bolt, Tina Boyd and Mo Khan) would complete the lead billing and could perhaps be ably filled by young and talent Brits like Noel Clarke, Samantha Morton and Dev Patel, assuming the later is ready to step up into a 'proper' thriller. Idris Elba would almost certainly have to be in contention as well considering his recent powerful run in Luther. Bolt's boss 'Big Barry' is tailor-made for Bill Nighy who, although not 'big' certainly suits the style of the boss who wants to do everything by the book. The villain, 'Hook' needs someone with presence and more than a little malice, something which Cillian Murphy has done well in Red Eye and might fancy another stab at.

Will it be any good?

Key areas of the plot would really need straightening out for this to work well and other elements would also need to be eliminated if this isn't going to be a 'hard 18' rated film (another problem with the book is that it dips into this territory, without ever believably committing to it). If a more direct page-to-screen adaptation was gone for then we could be looking at something approaching a disaster.

Anything else I should know about it?

This more lengthy review of Target highlights similar problems to those mentioned here.

Why Isn't This A Film? is a regular Film Intel feature which takes a book (you know... one of those things with pages in, doesn't project on to a screen, makes small rustling noises), comic, video game or graphic novel and assesses its adaptation prospects. One day this feature will get something right and we will win something major and valuable. Possibly.

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