Title: Point Blank
Writer-director: Fred Cavaye
Starring: Gilles Lellouche, Roschdy Zem, Gerard Lanvin, Elena Anaya
The title Point Blank is one of those perfectly generic and innocuous film monikers that indicate “thrills” without any cumbersome specificity whatsoever. One hears it and immediately envisions a dozen or more well-worn video and DVD coverboxes – with Steven Seagal, Jeff Speakman or, now, the latest WWE superstar attempting to transition into acting, clutching a handgun and mean-mugging the viewer, all underneath a font that conveys skirmish and exploit. This is one of the reasons that it’s a somewhat strange fit with this French import — an action thriller yes, but hardly a nuance-free, vengeful head-knocker of the sort that the handle Point Blank implies.
The story centers on a male nurse, Samuel (Gilles Lellouche), who unwittingly sets into motion a madcap chain of events when he saves the life of a wounded patient, Hugo (Roschdy Zem), who is a mysterious, on-the-lam thief. This act in turn imperils the life of Samuel’s pregnant wife Nadia (the lovely Elena Anaya, who gives a mesmerizing performance in Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In, set for release later this year), as she’s kidnapped by shadowy figures who either want to save Hugo, or kill him (maybe even both). A harried game of cat-and-mouse ensues, with an on-the-lam Hugo and Samuel eventually forced to work together, after they are framed for a cop’s murder by a rogue faction within the police force, led by Commandant Werner (Gerard Lanvin), who are for some reason at odds with their own.
Point Blank variously recalls a lot of other movies — The Fugitive, the District 13 movies co-written by Luc Besson and, fleetingly, the Jason Bourne flicks. The difference, really, is that while Point Blank has its punchy moments, it isn’t really entirely built for kinetic transport and enchantment. Neither is the mystery surrounding its crooked-cop particulars that interesting. If its plot is powered by recognizably human motivations, its story twists and turns are fairly boilerplate and easily guessed in the end, and also handled with a dismissive air of obligation. More hiccups arrive in the third act when, amidst the hustle and bustle of a police station under siege and overwhelmed with activity, the movie basically cedes any narrative reasonableness and coherence in favor of a jumbled, nonsensical catharsis.
Still, Point Blank‘s acting is solid, and emotionally invested (Lellouche is fantastic), and fans of internationally flavored tales of intrigue like Taken, the aforementioned District 13 films and Ronin will respond in positive if measured fashion. Director Fred Cavaye’s stylish, briskly paced film at least tries to counterbalance its chase-thrill razzmatazz with large dollops of the sort of innate human panic its frenzied circumstances would produce, especially in Samuel. After all, what recent American action movie can you recall in which an escape sequence ends with the overwhelmed protagonist throwing up?
Written by: Brent Simon