Review: Point Blank

Fred Cavayé shoots his action with both vigorous propulsion and visual lucidity.

Point Blank
Photo: Magnolia Pictures

Appropriating the title of John Boorman’s crime classic Point Blank may be a ballsy assertion of relevance, but given its generic thriller formula, Fred Cavayé’s film doesn’t deserve to be associated with its illustrious namesake. Like the director’s prior Pour Elle (the basis for The Next Three Days), this uncomplicated pulp involves an average man attempting to extricate a loved one, as well as valuable items, from a maximum-security locale, a task that superficially involves great risk and sacrifice, yet whose outcome is never in doubt. That inevitability of triumph is established early via Cavayé’s portrait of nurses aid Samuel (Gilles Lellouche) and pregnant wife Nadia (Elena Anaya) playfully canoodling on the couch after Nadia is told that bed rest is a must, a compassionate vision of everyday domestic bliss so pure and undefiled that, despite the disrupting madness to come, it’s near-impossible to believe that Cavayé will permanently shatter it.

The absence of true danger and, thus, suspense, proves a constant narrative obstacle, though it’s nonetheless one occasionally hurdled courtesy of breakneck pacing and clean choreography that’s first evident during a slam-bang opening chase, and regularly picks up again during similar sequences in which its characters race through streets, leap between apartment buildings, and sneakily infiltrate a crowded police station. After a mysterious man fleeing gunmen is hit by a motorcycle and admitted to the hospital, Samuel finds himself saving the anonymous patient—who we later learn is named Sartet (Roschdy Zem)—from a killer. That act of kindness only results in more trouble, as Nadia is soon kidnapped by villains who promise to release her if Samuel extricates Sartet from police custody. Samuel is thus compelled to zap a cop with a defibrillator, bludgeon his boss with a handgun, and perform other assorted crimes, all while being pursued by two different sets of detectives, one good and one clearly not so good.

Cavayé shoots his action with both vigorous propulsion and visual lucidity. Unfortunately, however, his story’s revelations, all of which are related to a recent corporate bigwig’s assassination, arrive at least two-to-three scenes after they’ve already become obvious. And despite the deaths of a few peripheral players, the film never manages to create even the illusion of real peril for its Hitchcockian “wrong man” protagonist, who’s far too noble and innocent to suffer a truly grave fate. The result is that Point Blank is at once poised and perfunctory, aesthetically assured but narratively challenged—a lean B-movie ride that never manages to transcend its inherent status as a tension-free fairy tale about men’s inherent roles as heroic spousal and paternal saviors.

 Cast: Gilles Lellouche, Roschdy Zem, Gérard Lanvin, Elena Anaya  Director: Fred Cavayé  Screenwriter: Fred Cavayé, Guillaume Lemans  Distributor: Magnolia Pictures  Running Time: 84 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2010  Buy: Video

Nick Schager

Nick Schager is the entertainment critic for The Daily Beast. His work has also appeared in Variety, Esquire, The Village Voice, and other publications.

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