When five friends set out on an innocent fishing trip their lives are put at peril when they stumble across a secret training camp for homegrown terrorists. It begins with a simple stop at an abandoned car in an isolated mountain/forest terrain. Looking to offer assistance, two of the men are immediately shot from unseen marksmen who are picking them off with machine gun fire from higher ground. Three of the men survive but one of the men gets separated from the group.
The above description is the outline for Target Practice, a 2008 action film by Richmond Riedel that worked the festival circuit and is now available on DVD.
There isnít a tremendous amount of character development with the three surviving friends Ė but there doesnít need to be either. There is the bigot (Joey Lanai) and the two friends that canít seem to agree on much (Eric Dean and Aaron Hawk). We get small glimpses into their background, but writer/director Riedel knows that he is crafting a low budget action film that needs to focus on the payoffs. We therefore donít get bogged down in mindless sub-plots involving character redemptions or infidelity revelations that too often clutter action films of the same ilk.
Instead, we get a tight, taut story that takes a few unexpected turns on its way to a genuinely original conclusion. The first such twist comes when Paul meets Ron (Solomon Hoilett) Ė a fatigue wearing gun-slinger that when overmatched and confronted by Paul, claims to be a member of a government agency who has infiltrated the terrorist cell. Paul is skeptical, but comes to put faith in Ron when a gun battle erupts with other terrorists and Ron is uses his weapon to take out a few of the stalkers. Their relationship remains strained throughout the film with race (Ron is black) erupting as a suggest source of Paulís angst.
Things take even further turns when the character of Albedeen (Eltony Williams) is introduced. Albedeen has the same back story as a solider/infiltrator of the cell and the similarities in his and Ronís account of the present situation thrusts Paul into a mistrust of multiple directions.
Meanwhile, Mark (Dean) and Steve (Hawk) continue to try for higher ground while dodging the countless terrorists that have weaponized in the woods. When Mark is captured, he is used as leverage to call out Paul and a confrontation between both sides is set-up with both sides attempting to achieve a surprise assault.
Target Practice may not be directed with the budgetary influence of a Renny Harlin or a Michael Bay, but Richmond Riedel does enough with the tools available to spin a worthy action film that rests on the confident shoulders of the choreographed fighting sequences. Most independent films have issues with pulling off a believable shoot-em-up scene, but Target Practice has a guerilla sense of realism that is effective for its purposes.
There are a few flaws, but you can appreciate what was brought to the table and we were thankful that our time was not wasted on low budget wannabe. The acting was better than your average fare, the action sequences pleasantly surprised, and the ending ..well, we just didnít see that coming.