Glamour masks the face of evil
By John DeFore
Friday, Aug 05, 2011
A brisk French thriller whose plot is as secondhand as its title, "Point Blank" keeps the adrenaline flowing well past the point at which viewers stop hoping for twists they can't predict.
Directed and co-written by Fred Cavaye, whose previous feature was remade as the Russell Crowe vehicle "The Next Three Days," the movie shares that film's basic setup - an ordinary man is thrust into action to save his wife. This time, though, the missus is about-to-pop pregnant, being manhandled by kidnappers whose filthy industrial hideouts provide less-than-ideal childbirth environs.
Gilles Lellouche stars as the tormented husband, Samuel, who sweatily aces the role's main requirement: Palpably terrified throughout, he projects the desperation of a decent man who will cross any line to keep his wife safe.
Why has she been taken from him? Best not to investigate the mechanics of this too much. Be content to know that Samuel, a nurse-in-training at a big Paris hospital, has come in contact with Monsieur Sartet - a patient admitted, unconscious and nearly dead, after spending the film's exciting credits sequence fleeing from mysterious men. Those men would like to make him slightly more dead, and Sartet's partner has decided that only Samuel can slip the patient past heavy police guard and out of the hospital. Hence the kidnapping, the menacing phone call, the "get him out or I kill your wife."
So off Samuel goes - darting through subway stations, immobilizing guards with electrical defibrillators and getting from one building to the next via through-the-window jumps that owe much to the "Bourne" films. Even in the most derivative chase scenes, though, Cavaye captures the action with energy and style. (His cinematographer, Alain Duplantier, has since been recruited by Hollywood for "Killer Elite," starring Robert De Niro, Jason Statham and Clive Owen.)
Samuel has been warned not to call the cops, but in this case it isn't because they want to put Sartet in jail. We soon learn that the goons trying to kill him are a rogue unit of lawmen whose leader's haggard face and nasty eyes should really have made colleagues suspicious long ago. This bad-cop angle is as stale as the villains' flop sweat, but Cavaye peppers it with a couple of nice narrative feints, occasionally hinting that the crew might mutiny when their plans put innocent lives - including those of their uncorrupted colleagues - at stake.
Some of the script's more trite ingredients, including a video containing tidy evidence of the cops' crimes, would be tough to bear if Cavaye actually took them seriously. Instead, he touches on them just long enough to get his story told in less than 90 minutes. Why invest energy in details, he apparently thinks, when Hollywood will just rewrite them all in the remake?
Contains strong violence and some language. In French with English subtitles.