French Fried Nerves

Point Blank proves action cliches are universal

Sorry, Esperanto; À Bout Portant, which translates to the nearly Keanu-tastic Point Blank, is a reminder that action clichés are the true universal language. Writer/director Fred Cavayé puts a lightly French twist on such classics as “average guy at the wrong place and wrong time,” “pregnant wife held hostage,” “dirty cops are everywhere” and “only the hero’s bullets are accurate.” Aided by clever cinematography and an actor, Gilles Lellouche, who looks like Liam Neeson if you squint, Point Blank is a harmless bit of escapist fun.

After a fairly inspired opening chase sequence that ends with a delightful bit of blunt force trauma, the film shifts to our protagonist, an affable nurse named Samuel (Lellouche). When he saves a patient (Roschdy Zem) targeted for murder by bad guys and catches a glimpse of the would-be assassin, Samuel finds himself dead center in a conspiracy that goes “all the way to the top” or “straight to the sacré bleu” or whatever the French cliché is.

Samuel’s wife (Elena Anaya), who is mega-pregnant and thus undeniably kidnappable, is held hostage until such time as Samuel brings the patient he saved, who happens to be a thief, to the evil crime lords. After a marginally exhilarating escape sequence, the nurse and the thief find themselves reluctant partners; one trying to save his wife, the other trying to save himself, both trying to follow familiar film formulas as best they can.

Aside from one of the silliest “beaten to death by a chair” scenes in history, Cavayé manages to mostly hit the right notes. Well-framed chase sequences galore are squeezed between the obligatory stand-offs and non-shocking obvious revelations. Still, with an air of The Fugitive mixed with Taken, Point Blank is a reminder that this type of mindless diversion is replicated for a reason. There is comfort in the straight-forward objective and solace in the shoot ‘em up.

Lellouche carries a globally approachable charisma; his face is just “action-hero-esque” enough to buy him wielding a pistol and just “everyman” enough to believe it’s his first time doing so. Meanwhile, Zem and Anaya aren’t given much to do but look pissed and look pregnant, respectively. But action movies aren’t acting exhibitions on either side of the Atlantic.

Cavayé, who also wrote the screenplay upon which the generic Russell Crowe thriller The Next Three Days was based, should also be applauded for his decision to keep the whole shebang compact and lean. At under 90 minutes, the length is just right for a film with little of consequence to offer. The American tendency would be to bloat the thing with some kind of motivating backstory when “get pregnant wife back” is all the impetus audiences need.

Point Blank is recommendable for its confident resolution to be what it is and nothing more. Short, good-looking and packed with predictability, it is the sort of film that exists only to pad IMDB resumés and help pass the time.

Grade = B-

posted at 11:26 pm
on Friday, September 02nd, 2011

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