MATT DILLON and Gene Hackman play an estranged father and son who forge a better Bond in the entertaining family spy thriller, "Target," directed by Arthur Penn of "Bonnie and Clyde."
Hackman, seemingly just a steady, small- town businessman, becomes 007 in Hush- puppies when his wife is kidnapped in Paris by someone out to even an old score. Dillon, as a smart-aleck college dropout, is contemptuous of his father's plodding pace, but quickly gets his much-deserved comeuppance when Dad turns out to be a Company man who's come in from the cold.
Gayle Hunnicutt, in a short, sure performance as Mom, is snatched from a tour group in France, where Hackman picks up her mysterious trail to Hamburg and finally to the East Berlin Wall. (No spy movie is complete without a stop here.)
The cloak-and-dagger doings along the way aren't surefire -- but then, the skulking and lurking are secondary to the growing friendship between parent and child. And that is convincingly acted by the leads, each a likable, gawky hunk in his own, inimitable way.
Dillon expands on his successful role in "The Flamingo Kid," which also explored the conflicts and affection between a father and son. Likewise, Hackman recalls his role as a father who goes after his M.I.A. son in "Uncommon Valor."
A father's fantasy of getting a little respect from the kids is the heart of "Target," in which an All-American dad becomes Super Dad, careering through the sidestreets of Hamburg in a high-speed car chase, rendezvousing with Russian agents, and shoving a gun up a counterspy's nose.
Great espionage -- on the order of "Smiley's People," say -- takes more time and character development. "Target" isn't a suspenseful spy movie, but it makes up for its shortcomings with its genuine good- heartedness.